Bhima Koregaon case: Varavara Rao to be shifted to Nanavati Hospital for 15 days
The Bombay high court on Wednesday directed the transfer of jailed ailing Telugu poet P Varavara Rao, 81, from Mumbai’s Taloja Prison to the Nanavati Hospital for 15 days for his proper medical care. The order was issued in response to an interim prayer of Rao’s wife, P Hemlatha, who sought the transfer.
Lawyer Indira Jaising earlier told the court that Rao’s condition was deteriorating and his family feared he could die if he is not shifted to the hospital. She also sought interim relief in the form of bail citing Rao’s condition. The court said it will hear the bail plea on December 9 while seeking Rao’s medical report after he is shifted and treated at the Nanavati Hospital. It added Rao should not be discharged without informing the court.
Rao is among over a dozen scholars and rights activists arrested for their alleged links with Maoists and for allegedly instigating violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune in 2018. The violence was triggered during the 200th-anniversary celebration of a battle where Dalits fought with British forces and defeated an upper-caste ruler. The activists are accused of making provocative speeches that allegedly triggered the violence.
Hemlatha moved the court last week after learning about Rao’s deteriorating health at the prison hospital and that it did not have the required facilities to treat him.
Jaising submitted that when Rao was arrested two years ago, he was healthy. She added his condition deteriorated inside the jail and he had to be admitted to the jail hospital. Jaising said co-accused Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira took care of Rao but they are not medically trained. She added that the discharge reports of Rao after his previous hospitalisations were not provided to his family and it is clueless about his condition. Jaising blamed the state’s negligence for a head injury Rao has suffered while arguing for the need to shift her client to the Nanavati Hospital.
Jaising said Rao’s mental health was failing and his ability to eat was also compromised. She added due to other complications, his proper care could be taken only at a super specialty hospital like Nanavati. Jaising said video consultations by the Nanavati doctors were insufficient and he needed to be examined physically for his neurological and urology problems.
Jaising submitted Rao earlier tested positive for Covid-19 and that his family was worried that he may suffer complications in the form of organ failure given his age.
Additional solicitor general Anil Singh, who appeared for the National Investigation Agency, opposed the plea and said that Rao could be shifted to J J Hospital as all the tests could be conducted there as it is well-equipped.
The court observed that government hospitals were overburdened due to Covid-19 and asked Singh whether he will admit his relatives to J J or St George’s hospitals. He responded by saying that it was not that people were not being admitted and treated there. Singh added shifting Rao to the Nanavati Hospital would set a wrong precedent and hence it was better to shift him to a government hospital.
Jaising objected and said Rao’s family found him earlier in a pitiable condition at the J J Hospital. She added he was lying in a pool of urine, which indicated the government hospital was unable to take Rao’s proper care.
Jaising said if Rao died for the want of proper medical treatment, it would amount to custodial death. She wondered who would be held responsible for it. “Death is inevitable but there should be some dignity. It is an emotional matter.”
She referred to Rao’s latest medical report from the Nanavati Hospital and added it suggested he may have brain atrophy, which could result in organ failure.