Citing the spread of coronavirus, poet P Varavara Rao and retired professor Shoma Sen, among the nine persons accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, have sought temporary bail on medical grounds from a special court. The court on Monday heard the arguments on their bail pleas. An order in the matter is likely to be passed Tuesday.
Rao and Sen along with the seven other accused in the case have also sought access to their family members and lawyers through telephone since jail authorities have suspended prison visits for over a week, over coronavirus pandemic.
“It has been found that older people and those with underlying medical problems are more likely to develop serious illness… The applicant [Rao] is aged about 80 years and suffers from multiple ailments and is vulnerable to such a disease… that spreads rampantly and is seen as a threat to human life. Already many countries have lost several lives… The applicant is already a patient of respiratory problems and is suffering due to suffocation,” Rao’s bail application, filed through his lawyer R Satyanarayan, states.
Sen’s bail plea, filed through lawyer Sharif Shaikh, states that she is around 61 years old and suffers from multiple ailments, such as osteoarthritis, glaucoma and high blood pressure and is vulnerable to coronavirus.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has opposed the bail applications stating that the virus is a universal problem, but the accused cannot be released on bail. NIA special public prosecutor said that there was no urgency shown by the defence and no medical certificate attached to the bail plea.
“The outbreak of coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation and one does not know how long it would last. Thus, considering the peculiar circumstances, the jail could regulate some time by which telephonic access could be had with their relatives and lawyers,” stated the application filed by the nine accused, through filed by lawyer Susan Abraham, seeking telephone access. They also stated that there has been no means of communication with the inmates to inquire about their health and condition.
While Rao, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalves are lodged in Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai, Sen and Sudha Bharadwaj are lodged in Byculla jail.
Since the restrictions on weekly visits by family members and lawyers have been in place, there has been no communication with inmates lodged in various prisons across the state. Family members of Rao said that while they usually received letters from him at least once in 10 days, the last letter they received was on March 11, sent by him on March 2.
“I also sent a money order but did not receive an acknowledgement regarding its delivery. He is suffering from various ailments and was not keeping well when we last met him in court on February 28. We have been worried and called prison authorities multiple times. We were told that they have a coin box for over 3,000 prisoners lodged in the jail and they have begun giving access to a phone to inmates’ families block-wise. We do not know when his turn will come for a phone call,” said Hemlatha, Rao’s wife.
Sen’s daughter Koel also said that initially, the jail authorities had informed her that there was no means of communication since the prison visits have stopped. She was later told that there is one cell phone assigned for calls to be made by inmates to their family members for a duration of two minutes, but she has not received any call so far. “I am anxious about her [Sen’s] health and not being able to communicate with her makes it worse,” Koel said.
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