P Varavara Rao: NHRC issues notice to Maha, seeks health report within two weeksUpdated: Jul 17, 2020 20:25 IST
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken cognizance of a complaint filed by Maja Daruwala, special monitor, NHRC, about the deplorable health condition of P Varavara Rao (81), an acclaimed Telugu poet and social activist and an accused in the 2018 Elgar Parishad case.
The commission on Friday issued notice to the state chief secretary, Sanjay Kumar, and SN Pandey, the director-general (DG), prisons, Maharashtra, and directed them to submit a report about Rao’s health condition within two weeks after the undertrial tested Covid-19 positive a day ago.
The complaint mentioned that Rao is suffering from multiple old-age-related health complications and also tested Covid-19 positive on Thursday, which has further aggravated his condition.
NHRC observed that the right to life and medical care are one of the basic human rights. The commission said the onus is on the state to provide to a prisoner, who is in its custody, appropriate medical care in a bid to ensure that there is no danger to his life.
NHRC has also directed the state government to constitute a medical board to examine Rao’s health condition and ensure that the treatment being provided to him is appropriate.
The commission has said the board is required to decide whether Rao should be admitted to a government-run or private hospital that could provide him the best possible treatment.
Pandey denied receiving any notice from NHRC.
Meanwhile, Rao’s bail plea could not be heard by Bombay high court (HC) on Friday due to lack of time.
His lawyer R Sathyanarayan said that he would move a praecipe for the bail plea to be heard on an urgent basis on Monday.
Rao had moved the HC appealing against the order of the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court, which had rejected his interim bail application on June 26.
Rao had sought interim bail on the grounds of failing health and susceptibility to Covid-19 amid the viral outbreak in Maharashtra’s prisons and correctional homes.
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.
On July 13, Rao was again admitted to Sir JJ Hospital after his health condition worsened and he showed signs of delirium.
On Thursday, he was shifted to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)-run St George’s Hospital, whose healthcare facilities are few and far between, after he tested Covid-19 positive and amid the protestations of his family members.
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) Act, 1967, where there is no provision to grant him temporary bail.
NIA had submitted that the jail authorities could be directed to ensure that Rao was provided proper medical attention, whenever required.
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 that 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.