The wife of Telugu poet and writer Varavara Rao, arrested in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima case, moved the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking bail for him claiming that his continued custody amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment.
The petition, filed by Pendyala Hemalatha, urged the court to immediately release of Rao on the ground that his continued custody was violating his rights granted under Article 21of the Constitution (life or personal liberty) and dignity.
The petition further said that during the pendency of the petition, the 81-year-old accused “be released on temporary medical bail and be allowed to travel to Hyderabad to be with his family and loved ones”.
The health condition of the petitioner’s husband is very feeble and he suffers from various comorbidities. It is therefore highly likely that COVID-19 and the fall that he had in St. George’s Hospital led to neurological problems as reflected in the medical report filed by Nanavati Hospital dated 30.07.2020,” the court has been told.
The petition adds that Ms Rao, her two daughters and brother had arrived in Mumbai and met Mr Rao, then Covid-positive, in JJ Hospital, where he was found “in a pitiable condition, in a pool of urine, without any nurse or attendant”. He was sent back to jail after recovering from COVID-19 on August 28.
Mr Rao’s wife and daughters have repeatedly sought bail for the activist on medical grounds and written to the central and state governments seeking information about his health after conflicting reports about his medical condition emerged in the media in May.
The family also wrote to the National Human Rights Commission, which then issued notices to the Maharashtra government asking it to ensure Mr. Rao was taken care of and adequate medical facilities are arranged.
Mr. Rao has been accused of making allegedly inflammatory speeches at Pune’s Elgar Parishad conclave on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.
He was first arrested from Hyderabad on August 28, 2018, after his extended house arrest ended. He and other accused in the Bhima Koregaon case were shifted to Mumbai’s Arthur Raod jail in February this year after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the probe from the Pune Police.
The NIA had earlier opposed Mr Rao’s bail plea in the High Court saying he was involved in anti-national activities and was trying to benefit from the pandemic.
Varavara Rao, an 80-year old Telugu revolutionary poet, along with 12 others, have been languishing in jails for the last two years as accused in a case, famously known as Bhima Koregaon case. During these two years, partly due to the lack of proper medical care and partly because of the negligence of police and prison administrations, coupled with the stress involved in imprisonment, his health deteriorated. Particularly he has been suffering from electrolyte imbalance and fall in Sodium and Potassium levels, leading to loss of memory, confusion, incoherence
In the words of his friend, Rao, a popular public speaker with eloquent oration and elephantine memory is now reduced to searching for words, incoherent delirium.