Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Bhima Koregaon: Supreme Court to hear Varavara Rao’s plea for permanent medical bail

The Supreme Court will hear a plea filed by Telugu poet and accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case, P Varavara Rao, challenging the Bombay High Court order rejecting his prayer for permanent medical bail in the matter.

A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit posted it for hearing today after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested that he be allowed to place on record a compilation of documents and the matter be heard today.  

In his plea filed through advocate Nupur Kumar against the April 13 order of the high court, Rao has said, “The petitioner is an 83-year-old renowned Telugu poet and orator, who has undergone over two years of incarceration as an under-trial, and is currently enlarged on bail on medical grounds by the Bombay High Court, respectfully submits that any further incarceration would ring the death knell for him as an advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination”.

The plea said Rao has challenged the high court order as he was not granted an extension of bail despite his advanced age and precarious health condition, and his request to shift to Hyderabad was also denied.

He was arrested on August 28, 2018 from his Hyderabad residence and is an under-trial in the Bhima Koregaon case for which an FIR was lodged by the Pune police on January 8, 2018 under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The case pertains to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city. Initially, Rao said he was put under house arrest pursuant to an order of the apex court and ultimately, on November 17, 2018, he was taken into police custody and later, shifted to the Taloja jail.

On February 22, 2021, the Bombay High Court had granted him bail on medical grounds and he was released from jail on March 6, 2021.

It added that after grant of bail, the petitioner’s health deteriorated and he had developed an umbilical hernia for which he had to undergo surgery.

He needs to be operated for cataract in both eyes, which he has not undertaken as the cost is prohibitive in Mumbai, the plea said, adding the petitioner has also been suffering from neurological problems.

“It is submitted that in the totality of circumstances, the trial will take not less than 10 years. In fact, one of the accused in the case, Father Stan Swamy, who was suffering from similar ailments as the petitioner, passed away even before the trial could start,” it said. The high court had said it had found substance in several claims made by Rao’s counsel on the lack of medical facilities at the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai and the poor hygienic conditions there.

The court had directed the Maharashtra inspector general of prisons to submit a “candid” report on the state of such facilities, at the “Taloja prison in particular”, and also at all prisons across the state.


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