A SPECIAL court on Friday rejected the interim bail applications of 81-year-old writer-poet Varavara Rao and 61-year-old former professor Shoma Sen, who are behind bars since 2018 in the Elgaar Parishad case. Both Rao and Sen had sought interim bail citing their ill health and susceptibility to Covid-19.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) ), which had taken over the probe from the Pune Police earlier this year, had opposed the pleas stating that since they have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, there was no provision to grant them temporary bail.
Rao had last month fallen unconscious at his cell in Taloja Central Jail and rushed to the state-run JJ Hospital. His lawyers had submitted before the court that his medical condition needed proper and immediate attention to prevent further deterioration.
Fourteen Members of Parliament (MPs) had last week written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to provide urgent medical attention to Rao stating that the health reports from JJ Hospital indicated an electrolyte disturbance, which could prove detrimental as he was already suffering from cardiac ailment.
The NIA had submitted that the jail authorities can be directed to ensure proper medical attention, whenever required, and said steps were being taken for isolation and quarantine within the jail to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
So far, two inmates at Taloja Central Jail, who tested positive for the virus, have died. A 54-year-old female inmate at Byculla Women’s Jail, where Sen is lodged, had tested positive for Covid-19 and has since recovered.
Sen’s lawyer, too, had submitted that she is aged about 61 years and suffered from multiple ailments such as osteoarthritis, glaucoma and high blood pressure and was vulnerable to the coronavirus disease. They had also submitted that the high-powered committee, constituted on the orders of the Supreme Court in March, had directed that state jails should be decongested.
The special court’s detailed order rejecting the applications of Rao and Sen is yet to be made available. Last month, the court had rejected the bail plea of activist-lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj. An appeal against the order is pending before the Bombay High Court.
Meanwhile, lawyer Arun Ferreira and activist Rona Wilson have sought release on temporary parole. In an application, sent to the court through email, the two, also lodged at Taloja Central Jail, have sought parole for 60 days citing the Covid-19 outbreak. The NIA has opposed the pleas.
Eleven persons were booked in the Elgaar Parishad case on charges that they were part of a criminal conspiracy to organise the event in Pune on December 29, 2017, which has been linked it to the assault on Dalits at Bhima Koregaon village on January 1, 2018. The Pune Police, from whom the NIA took over the case earlier this year, had claimed that the accused had links with the banned CPI (Maoists).
The accused have maintained that there was no evidence linking them to the case and that the state government arrested them to evade action against others, including Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, who were booked in connection with the violence in Bhima Koregaon.
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