Bhima Koregaon case: Bombay HC grants Varavara Rao six months interim bail, says 'genuine and fit case'

The bail conditions include a direction to the accused in Elgar Parishad case to stay within the jurisdiction of the Mumbai NIA court for the bail period

Press Trust of India February 22, 2021 21:14:48 IST
Bhima Koregaon case: Bombay HC grants Varavara Rao six months interim bail, says 'genuine and fit case'

File image of Telugu poet Varavara Roa. News18

Granting interim bail to ailing poet Varavara Rao for six months on medical grounds on Monday, the Bombay High Court, noting the well recognised fundamental rights of the undertrial to have quality medical aid for serious ailments, said this is "a genuine and fit case to grant relief", according to several media reports.

Not doing so would be an abdication of "our constitutional duty and function as a protector of human rights", the court added.

Rao, 82, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), is currently undergoing treatment in the Mumbai-based Nanavati Hospital where he had been admitted by the Maharashtra government following the high court's intervention.

Rao has been in custody since 28 August, 2018, awaiting trial in the case.

"We are of the opinion that this court, as a constitutional court, cannot be a mute spectator to the undertrial (Rao) being sent to prison and then to government hospitals where his health deteriorates further, to be ultimately shifted to the private superspeciality hospitals, upon intervention of courts and such movements of the undertrial continue back and forth only because his bail application has been turned down on merits under Section 43D(5) of the UAPA … we are of the opinion that adopting a humanitarian approach in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case is warranted," Bar&Bench quoted the court as saying.

A bench of justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale ordered that Rao be discharged from the hospital, depending on his current health condition, and released on bail immediately after his discharge.

"The prisoners of advanced age like the undertrial, who is about 82-years-old, and such other prisoners suffering from various health ailments induced by old age when put beyond bars, certainly face the danger of their health conditions worsening and accelerating their journey towards the end of their life," the bench further stated, as per Live Law, and added that this aspect must be considered.

"The onset of old age and concomitant debilitating effect on the mental and physical conditions is an aspect which assumes great significance in the context of keeping such old aged persons behind bars," the court further observed as per the report, while imposing stringent conditions on Rao's bail, including a direction to him to stay within the jurisdiction of the Mumbai NIA court for the period he is out on bail.

Rao will have to submit his passport before the NIA court, and he has been forbidden to establish any contact with his co-accused in the case. He will also have to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and two sureties of the like amount.

On 1 February, the HC closed all arguments in the case and reserved its verdict on Rao's medical bail plea and his wife Hemlatha's writ petition that alleged a breach of his fundamental rights due to inadequate medical care and his continued incarceration.

The case pertains to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on 31 December, 2017, which, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.

The police have also alleged that the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.

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