'Further Incarceration a Death Knell': Varavara Rao Moves SC for Permanent Medical Bail

The matter is listed for hearing on July 11.

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New Delhi: Elgar Parishad accused P. Varavara Rao has moved the Supreme Court for permanent medical bail after his plea was rejected by the Bombay high court on April 13. The matter is listed for hearing on July 11.

In his petition, Rao submitted to the court that “any further incarceration would ring the death knell for him as advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination.”

Rao, who has been out on bail since March 6, 2021 in his hometown in Hyderabad, urged that he be considered for permanent medical bail. The bail he secured in March 2021 has been extended multiple times given his health, and the medical procedures he had to undergo.

The April 13 order by the Bombay high court rejected his prayer for permanent bail, but extended time up to three months for him to surrender. He is due to surrender in July.

Against this backdrop, a vacation bench of Supreme Court Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala was told by senior advocate Anand Grover that Rao is an 83-year-old man suffering from various comorbidities.

“All I am asking is that the plea be listed on reopening of the court,” Grover told the bench while mentioning the plea for urgent listing.

“Upon being orally mentioned by the learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioner seeking urgent listing of the matter, the registry is directed to list this matter on July 11, 2022, before an appropriate Bench,” the vacation bench ordered.

Rao in his appeal filed through advocate Nupur Kumar against the Bombay high court order of April 13 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 advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination.”

Rao said that he had challenged the high court order as he was not granted an extension of bail, despite his “advanced age and precarious and deteriorating health condition”, and had been denied the prayer to shift to Hyderabad, his hometown.

He was arrested on August 28, 2018, from his home in Hyderabad and is an under-trial in the Elgar Parishad case for which first information report (FIR) was lodged by the Pune Police at Vishrambagh Police Station on January 8, 2018, under various sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and several provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA].

Initially, Rao said that he was put under house arrest pursuant to the order of the apex court and ultimately on November 17, 2018, he was taken into police custody and later shifted to Taloja Jail.

On February 22, 2021, the Bombay high court granted him bail on medical grounds and was released from jail on March 6, 2021.

Giving extensive details of his health conditions including suffering in the jail, Rao said that the order of the Bombay high court dated February 22, 2021 had contemplated that the petitioner could be on medical bail for an extended period, and even permanently, on medical grounds depending on his medical condition supported by medical examination reports.

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“The Judges in the impugned judgment and order committed a serious error in proceeding on the footing that because the earlier order had granted bail for a limited period of time, namely six months, it (the earlier bench) was not prepared to grant the bail for an unlimited period of time,” the appeal said.

It added that after the grant of bail by the order on February 22, 2021, the Petitioner’s health deteriorated and he had developed an umbilical hernia for which he had to undergo surgery.

He also needs to be operated for cataract in both his eyes, which he has not undertaken as the cost in Mumbai is prohibitive, it said, adding that the Petitioner has also been suffering from increasing neurological symptoms, that is, slowness of movement, hand tremors, stooping posture, amongst other symptoms.

Rao in his appeal said, “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.”

He submitted that the Petitioner has a right to health and medical treatment under Article 21 (Right to Protection of Life and personal liberty) of the constitution and the same would be violated if he was subjected to incarceration at Taloja jail.

On April 13, the high court had rejected the plea but had extended the time for the 83-year-old activist to surrender before the Taloja prison authorities by three months, to enable him to undergo cataract surgery.

It had also dismissed Rao’s application seeking that he be permitted to stay in Hyderabad instead of Mumbai, while out on bail.

“Seriousness and severity of the crime would remain till such time the accused is pronounced not guilty of the crime alleged to have been committed by him…,” the high court had observed, according to LiveLaw.

The high court had said it had found substance in several claims made by Rao’s counsel on lack of medical facilities in the Taloja prison, located in neighbouring Navi Mumbai, and poor hygiene conditions there.

The court had, therefore, 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 in all prisons across the state.

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.

The Pune police had also claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.

Later, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the probe into the case.

(With PTI inputs)