Varavara Rao, the 82-year-old Telugu poet-activist who was arrested in relation to the Bhima Koregaon case in July 2018, was granted six-months bail on medical grounds by the Bombay High Court on Monday, Live Law reported.
In January 2018, violence broke out during the annual celebration called the Elgar Parishad at Bhima Koregaon, a panchayat village in Maharashtra, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
Rao and 15 other activists and scholars were accused of having Maoist links, who backed the event that led to the violence, and were arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and await trial since the past three years.
During the tenure of Rao’s stay in Mumbai’s Taloja Central Jail, he tested positive for Covid-19 in July 2020 and was admitted to the state-run JJ Hospital. Since then, Rao’s health has been rapidly deteriorating and he has been suffering from dementia as well.
In November 2020, Rao’s wife applied for a bail plea on medical grounds, following Republic TV chief Arnab Goswami‘s bail hearing, during which the Supreme Court had asked high courts to exercise their jurisdiction to uphold personal liberty.
Denying his bail plea, the court had then ordered a panel of doctors from Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital to examine Rao over video call and visit him physically at the jail, if necessary, as it required his latest medical reports for the decision.
Rao was then shifted to Nanavati Hospital for 15days by the court’s order and his family was permitted to visit him, according to the hospital protocols. He, however, could not be discharged without consulting the court.
The court has since extended his stay twice until, on Monday, a division bench comprising Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale granted him bail of six months, after which he should either surrender or apply for an extension.
The court said, “With all humility at our command, keeping in mind the quality of medical aid available in Taloja, illness suffered by him we are of the opinion this is a genuine and fit case to grant relief or else we will be abdicating our constitutional duties.”
Though the National Investigation Agency requested the court to stay Rao’s release from the hospital for three more weeks, the court refused to stay and said: “We cannot stay his release, we will record your submission.”