The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Taloja jail authorities to arrange medical examination of Telugu poet-writer Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, through video on Thursday or latest by Friday, preferably by doctors at Nanavati Hospital who have treated him earlier.
“In the event, if doctors are of view that assessment is not possible on video call, it is open to doctors to visit Taloja jail at their earliest convenience. The report shall be submitted by November 16,” the High Court said.
A vacation bench of Justice A K Menon and Justice S P Tavade was hearing a writ plea by Rao’s wife Pendyala Hemalatha, seeking his release from Taloja jail. The plea raised grievances that prison authorities are not providing him appropriate medical attention since 2018.
On October 29, the Supreme Court asked the HC to decide the plea in an expedited manner. Referring to the “state of affairs” of Rao’s previous cases of hospitalisation in Mumbai, his wife sought a declaration from the HC that the authorities have violated right of personal liberty and dignity as per Article 21 of the Constitution of India and International Covenant on civil, economic, social and cultural rights, recognised as human rights. In view of this, she sought her husband’s release.
The plea also sought to move Rao to Nanavati Hospital and the appointment of a medical board of experts to assess his health.
On Thursday, Senior Counsel Indira Jaising, representing P Hemalatha, sought Rao’s move to Nanavati Hospital and said, “He is bedridden having dementia and has developed severe urinary conditions. If he is not removed, he will lose life in prison. It is going to be a case of custodial death.”
The NIA, in its affidavit, said Rao’s health was “not good”, but doctors at Taloja jail were regularly observing and checking his condition and providing all necessary treatment.
The court, thereafter, said the issue before it at the current stage is the medical condition of the accused and asked the authorities, “What is the harm in permitting medical examination on video by Nanavati Hospital panel of doctors and obviate difficulties pertaining to constitution of the medical board?”
After hearing submissions and by the consent of all parties, the court directed the state government and NIA to arrange for Rao’s video consultation by Nanavati doctors. The court also said the consultation should take place on Thursday or in the early part of Friday and the report should be submitted to the court by November 16. The HC also said in case doctors are unable to ascertain Rao’s condition through video call, they can visit Taloja jail and assess him.
Seeking a report, the court posted further hearing on November 17.
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