HC asks state, NIA if Varavara Rao’s family can see him in the hospital

Telugu poet and social activist P Varavara Rao’s counsel said his multiple health issues have flared up since he tested Covid-19 positive. Rao also suffered a head injury following a fall from his bed at Sir JJ Hospital.
Varavara Rao, who had tested coronavirus disease (Covid-19) positive on July 16 and suffers from old-age related health issues such as neurological ailments(HT File Photo)
Varavara Rao, who had tested coronavirus disease (Covid-19) positive on July 16 and suffers from old-age related health issues such as neurological ailments(HT File Photo)
Updated on Jul 20, 2020 08:15 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByK A Y Dodhiya

The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday asked the Maharashtra government and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to respond to a plea on whether the family members of Telugu poet and social activist, P Varavara Rao (81), who is an accused in the Elgar Parishad/Bhima Koregaon case, be allowed to see him from a distance at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital following his worsening health condition.

Rao, who had tested coronavirus disease (Covid-19) positive on July 16 and suffers from old-age related health issues such as neurological ailments, was transferred on Sunday morning to Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital from the state-run St George’s Hospital, whose healthcare facilities are few and far between.

The court issued the directions after Rao’s counsel Sudeep Pasbola informed the bench that the undertrial could be “on the verge of death” and his bail application be expedited.

The court paid heed to Pasbola’s prayer and directed the state government and NIA to respond by Wednesday and his bail plea will be heard the following day.

Pasbola informed a two-member HC division bench, comprising Justices SS Shinde and PV Tavade, that Rao’s health condition was rapidly worsening since he was lodged in Navi Mumbai’s Taloja Jail.

It had further aggravated after he was shifted to Sir JJ Hospital last week, he added.

His counsel said his multiple health issues have flared up since he tested Covid-19 positive. Rao also suffered a head injury following a fall from his bed at Sir JJ Hospital.

“Mr. Rao is in an extremely critical condition and it can be said that he is on the verge of death. His wife, through an affidavit filed on July 15, has requested permission to see him at the hospital,” submitted Pasbola.

The counsel cited his critical health condition and his wife’s request to pray before the bench that his bail plea must be heard expeditiously.

The gravity of Rao’s health condition overtook the issues raised in an earlier plea, filed last week through advocate R Satyanarayan, seeking an inquiry against the superintendent of Taloja Jail, and the matter could not be heard on Monday.

The petition has alleged that the jail authorities did not comply with the prescription issued by the doctors at Sir JJ Hospital, when Rao was admitted there on May 28, leading to the worsening of his health condition. He had become delirious and incoherent, which was also corroborated by his wife and daughters, when they spoke to him over the phone on July 11.

Additional solicitor-general Anil Singh, who appeared for NIA, submitted that Rao has been accorded the best possible treatment at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital after he suffered the head injury. He is being taken care of as per the guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), he added.

Singh also cited ICMR guidelines to make the point that the next of kin of Covid-19 patients are barred from any visitation right at a hospital.

Public prosecutor Deepak Thakare, who appeared for Maharashtra government, submitted before the court that Rao’s family members could interact with him via a video link.

Later, both Singh and Thakare informed the court that they would take instructions from their respective authorities and the bail plea will be heard on Thursday.

On May 28, Rao was taken to Sir JJ Hospital after he had lost consciousness. Later, he was discharged on June 1.

At that time, the family members had alleged that he was hurriedly discharged in a bid to obstruct his bail plea before the special NIA court, a fear that came true on June 26.

The NIA, which had taken over the Elgar Parishad case from Pune Police in February, had opposed the bail plea, as Rao was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAAPA), 2019, where there is no provision to grant him temporary bail.

Earlier, on January 1, 2018, violence erupted between Dalits and Marathas near the village of Bhima Koregaon in Pune district, where thousands of Dalits had gathered to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon.

In the battle, the British Army’s Dalit Mahar soldiers had defeated the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha empire.

The commemoration took place a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was held.

The Pune Police conducted a preliminary probe and claimed that the violence in Bhima Koregaon was the result of speeches made at the Elgar Parishad event.

They alleged that banned Maoist groups organised the event, and a first information report (FIR) was also filed.

In June 2018, the Pune Police arrested five activists and lawyers from Pune, Nagpur, and Delhi – Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, and Shoma Sen – for their alleged links to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and also for organising the Elgar Parishad event.

In August 2018, the police arrested four more activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, and Rao.

While Gautam Navlakha and Dr. Anand Teltumbde were arrested on April 14 this year, taking the total number of the accused in the case to 11.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2021