The Bombay High Court on Tuesday allowed Telugu writer-poet Varavara Rao, arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Elgaar Parishad case, to remain at Nanavati hospital in Mumbai till the next hearing on December 21. Rao, who is lodged at Taloja Central Jail, was shifted to the private hospital following a court order on November 18.
A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice M S Karnik was hearing a petition filed by Rao’s wife P Hemalatha, seeking proper treatment for the 81 year old and his release on bail on health grounds.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh, representing the NIA, told the HC that the probe agency had preliminary objections to the petition.
Singh added that as per the doctors at Nanavati hospital, Rao is healthy again. Hence, he should be discharged and sent back to Taloja jail, said the ASG. He further said that Hemalatha’s application seeking that Rao be shifted to Nanavati hospital and bail on health grounds was not as per procedure – she had directly approached the HC without first applying before the special court hearing the Elgaar Parishad case.
Senior counsels Anand Grover and Indira Jaising, appearing for Rao, said that he was suffering from “inherent ailments” prior to his arrest. They added that after his application was rejected by the special court, he had approached the HC, as he was found to have contracted Covid-19.
Grover submitted that though Rao was moved to J J hospital, St George’s hospital and then Nanavati hospital as per the HC order and received treatment, his condition was such that he needed constant medical care.
Such a care was not available in the hospital attached to Taloja jail, as it did not have personnel and facilities to treat Rao’s conditions. Hence, the plea for release on bail on health grounds should be allowed, he added.
After hearing the submissions, the bench observed that objections raised by NIA about Rao directly approaching HC and seeking bail were invalid as the Supreme Court had recently set a precedent for HCs to hear interim and bail pleas wherein Article 226 or Article 482 of the Constitution are invoked.
However, while posting the next hearing to Monday, it added that it would want to hear arguments by NIA, jail authorities and the petitioner before passing any orders.
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