The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was directed on Monday to take Varavara Rao, the Telugu poet and activist, who is one of the Bhima Koregaon accused, to a private hospital for medical examination. The Bombay High Court had passed the order during the previous hearing of the case, but a confusion on who would bear the expense for the examination, had resulted in it not being done.
The court also extended Rao’s medical bail by four days. The 82-year-old poet now has to surrender before the Taloja prison authorities in Navi, Mumbai on December 6, instead of the earlier December 2.
Since his medical examination was not completed, Rao’s fresh plea seeking permission to move to his hometown, Hyderabad, during his medical bail was not heard. He had filed this appeal after his previous bail hearing on November 18.
The court has scheduled the next hearing for December 3.
Rao and 15 other activists and scholars, who backed an annual celebration at Bhima Koregaon village in Maharashtra in January 2018 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, were arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act after violence broke out at the gathering. Accused of having Maoist links, they have been awaiting trial for the last three years.
Rao was first detained in August 2018 and was later kept under house arrest. He was taken into custody again in November of the same year.
The poet tested positive for Covid-19 in July 2020 and was admitted to the State-run JJ Hospital. Since then, his health has deteriorated rapidly. He has been suffering from dementia as well.
On grounds of medical concern, his wife had filed a bail petition at the Bombay High Court and he was granted interim bail of six months in February and finally released in March.
Rao, who was supposed to surrender at the end of this bail term, had filed for an extension of his bail and also sought permission to reside in Hyderabad with his family. The Bombay High Court had initially extended his bail till September 25.
Later, his bail had been extended until November 18.
On November 18, the High Court again extended Rao’s interim bail till December 2 and had ordered Nanavati Hospital to examine Rao afresh since he was recently admitted to the hospital between November 6 and 16.
During Monday’s hearing, the court berated NIA’s lawyers for not seeking clarification on the previous order.
The court also asked the NIA to pass on the message to the medical authorities to simplify their reports.
Meanwhile, in his fresh writ petition seeking permission to move to Hyderabad, Rao has mentioned that the cost of living and medical expenses will be lesser in Telangana compared to Mumbai. He mentioned that he is spending around Rs 96,000 per month in Mumbai while he receives only Rs 50,000 as a pension from the Telangana government.
Rao further cited medical reasons that he had also mentioned in his earlier petition, such as cataract surgery, Parkinson’s and umbilical hernia, which require constant medical intervention. He also mentioned that he had recently undergone surgery for hernia, post which he needed a full-time caretaker.