Varavara Rao's family demands 'transparent' health updates, medical records and permission to attend to jailed poet
The family said that while Varavara Rao was shifted from hospital to hospital in the last week as his health deteriorated, they received information about these developments 'through secondary sources'.
The family of jailed poet Varavara Rao on Monday demanded "transparent, official, and regular health updates" on the 80-year-old, a few days after he tested positive for coronavirus. Rao is one of the activists accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
In a press release circulated among journalists, the family said that the authorities had not provided any updates on Rao's health to the family, except for when he tested positive for coronavirus on 16 July. "Not sharing health updates of a person in judicial custody with his family is illegal, unconstitutional, and inhuman [sic]," the statement added.
The family said that while Rao was shifted from hospital to hospital in the last week as his health deteriorated, they received information about these developments "through secondary sources".
Rao's family members also said that they were "highly perturbed and worried" with the news of his head injury. "It is the family’s right to get official transparent updates on his health status, line of treatment and probable risks, but the concerned prison, police and health administrations in a gross dereliction of their duties have not come out to family with the much needed information," they said.
"The information of shifting him to Nanavati Hospital and worrying news of health status and deterioration for the last two days, including Nanavati finding a head injury, was known to family through friends in media and civil society only. In the absence of official and transparent information, various speculations, rumours and half truths are also being spread causing further anxiety to family and friends," the statement said.
Last week, Rao was shifted to Nanavati hospital after the NHRC ordered the Maharashtra government to ensure he gets treated at a private hospital. At the Nanavati hospital, he is being given neurological and urological treatment.
The statement also put forward a list of demands before the Maharashtra government, which included that a family member must be allowed to attend to Rao because he is unable to do anything on his own; to provide family members with a point-of-contact in the hospital; to make medical records accessible.
The family also demanded that the Maharashtra government must "enable the judicial process to grant regular bail or interim bail on health, age and COVID-19 grounds so that his family will take care of his health in a hospital of their choice."
Varavara Rao 'almost on deathbed', lawyer tells Bombay HC
Earlier on Monday, the Bombay High Court asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Maharashtra government to inform it about Rao's health and if his family could be allowed to see him "from a reasonable distance".
The directions came after Rao's lawyer Sudeep Pasbola told the court that the activist was "almost on his deathbed".
"His condition is very serious. He hit his head against the hospital bed while he was at the J J hospital and sustained severe injuries. Besides COVID-19, he suffers from several ailments, he is hallucinating and is delirious," Pasbola said.
"His days are numbered and if he is to die, at least let him die in the presence of his family members," the lawyer said while seeking that Rao be granted bail.
Pasbola said Rao was in no condition to cause any prejudice to the probe in the case and even the NIA could not dispute this fact.
The bench, however, asked whether it would be counterproductive to move him out of the hospital, and take him to any other place if his condition is so serious.
NHRC issues notice of Maharashtra govt over Rao's health
The issue of Rao's deteriorating health and the conditions he was kept in at a state-run hospital in Mumbai have caused outrage among activists, journalists, writers, and politicians in the last week.
Following reports and complaints about Rao's being kept in "inhuman" conditions in JJ Hospital last week, the NHRC issued a notice to the Maharashtra government and ordered it to bear the expenses of Rao's treatment at a private hospital.
According to reports, NHRC told the government to "move Rao to a private facility for treatment and also said that the expenses relating to Rao's treatment would be borne by the state as he was an under trial prisoner and therefore it's their responsibility."
"It is a question of saving a precious human life leaving apart the legal aspects of the matter. It is, therefore, necessary that the State Government should provide Rao the best possible treatment in a reputed specialty private hospital without any further delay," the NHRC was quoted as saying.
Rao lying in 'urine-soaked bed' in JJ Hospital, reports quote family as saying
Before he tested positive for coronavirus, Rao was reportedly found lying in a "urine-soaked bed" and unattended at the state-run JJ Hospital. He was shifted from the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai to JJ Hospital on 13 July after he complained of giddiness.
Reportedly, his health has been deteriorating since May.
A letter to the NHRC by Human Rights Defenders Alert claimed that Rao's family members found him lying in an “inhumane condition” in a pool of urine in a transit ward with no treatment or attendant in the JJ Hospital.
"When his nephew tried to change his urine-soaked bed sheets, the family was thrown out by the hospital staff," Newsclick quoted the family's the letter as saying.
Rao's lawyers have filed for bail several times over the past 22 months, on the grounds of his ill health.
The last bail plea on Monday "when Rao's lawyers approached the Bombay High Court with two pleas, seeking temporary bail owing to his deteriorating health and a direction to the jail authorities to produce his medical records and admit him to a state-run or private hospital," this Firstpost reported noted.
On 26 June, his plea was rejected by an NIA court "on the ground that he has been booked under stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)," the report added.
The Telugu poet, along with nine other activists, has been in jail for the past two years in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case. The case was being investigated by the Pune Police before it was transferred to the NIA in January 2020.
The case is related 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.
The police have also claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.
With inputs from agencies
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