Varavara Rao Asks Bombay HC for Extension of Medical Bail, Permission to Live at Home

Rao has said affording medical care in Mumbai is becoming difficult for him.

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New Delhi: Telugu poet and rights activist Varavara Rao has approached the Bombay high court requesting for his medical bail to be extended, and for him to leave Mumbai and go back to his own home in Telangana. Affording medical care and other basic necessities in Mumbai is difficult for him, Rao has said, according to LiveLaw.

In February this year, the Bombay high court had granted the ailing poet six months’ medical bail, with the condition that he cannot leave Mumbai.

“With all humility and human considerations, we are of the opinion that this is a fit case for allowing the relief,” a bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and Manish Pitale had said while granting him bail. “We feel that with the condition of the undertrial, it would be inappropriate to send him back [to jail from hospital]. It would be appropriate to impose such conditions.”

The National Investigation Agency had earlier opposed Rao’s bail plea, saying he was not suffering from dementia and only being treated for “age-related ailments”. This claim had been strongly opposed by Rao’s family and lawyers, and the court too had not been convinced.

On July 16 last year, Rao had tested positive for COVID-19 after which he was shifted to the Nanavati Hospital. He was discharged from the Nanavati Hospital following a final assessment report on July 30 and sent back to the Taloja prison. A few months before, that he had fallen unconscious in the prison and had to be rushed to the hospital in a delirious state. His family has time and again urged both the government and civil society to release him on bail on humanitarian grounds.

In December last year, he was admitted to the Nanavati Hospital again following the intervention of a bench of Justice Shinde and Justice M.S. Karnik.

Also read: India Must Stop Criminalising the Defence of Human Rights: UN Special Rapporteur

Rao is among the 16 activists, poets, lawyers and scholars arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, which many see as the government’s way to go after those who dissent. One of the 16, Father Stan Swamy, passed away while in custody earlier this year. His medical bail plea had not been approved, and his family and lawyer claim that Swamy’s health was neglected in prison and allowed to deteriorate beyond repair.

Like Rao, several other arrested activists, including academic and civil liberties activist Anand Teltumbde, journalist and activist Gautam Navlakha, retired professor Shoma Sen and academic and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, have moved petitions after their health conditions deteriorated in prison. The courts, however, have denied them relief.