Writer-poet Varavara Rao, who is behind bars since 2018 in the Elgaar Parishad case, has moved the Bombay High Court against an order of the Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Mumbai, which on June 26 had rejected his interim bail plea. The 81-year-old sought an interim bail citing ill health and susceptibility to Covid-19. Rao sought to set aside the NIA Court order. The special court had also rejected the interim bail plea of co-accused 61-year-old former professor Shoma Sen.
Varavara Rao’s health has been deteriorating in Taloja central jail, his lawyer and family said after receiving a phone call from him on Saturday. In view of this, Rao’s lawyers moved an urgent praecipe on Sunday stating that his appeal be heard with urgency on Tuesday, instead of its scheduled hearing on Friday, July 17
Rao, through advocates R Sathyanarayanan and Suzanne Abraham on Monday also filed an urgent writ plea against jail authorities stating that the authorities did not conduct medical checkups as suggested by JJ Hospital and sought to initiate action against the errant officers.
The writ plea sought direction from the Court to the authorities to produce entire medical reports of Rao and also to produce a course of action adopted after June 2 complying with prescriptions of the JJ Hospital.
The writ plea also sought directions to the authorities to send Rao for a medical check-up immediately and submit the latest report and if necessary, to send him to a private hospital at his expenses for advance check-ups.
The NIA, which had taken over the probe from the Pune Police earlier this year, had opposed the pleas before the Special Court, stating that since they have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, there was no provision to grant them temporary bail.
The NIA had submitted before the Special Court 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.
Rao had, in May, this year 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 month 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 a cardiac ailment.
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 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 HC is likely to hear both the pleas this week.