Bhima Koregaon case: SC grants bail to Varavara Rao on medical grounds, tells him to stay in Mumbai

The poet was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on August 28, 2018

FPJ BureauUpdated: Wednesday, August 10, 2022, 11:11 PM IST
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Supreme Court grants leave to Telugu poet Varavara Rao |

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted Telugu poet-activist P Varavara Rao (84) permanent bail on medical grounds, deleting the Bombay High Court's condition set in April 2022 to surrender in three months.

Rao, out on medical bail since March 6, 2021, approached the apex court after his plea for permanent bail was rejected by the high court on April 13 this year.

The poet was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on August 28, 2018. Police claimed he was a part of the Elgar Parishad held in December 2017 and the alleged conspiracy to foment violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018.

While granting bail, the Supreme Court has retained the condition set earlier by the high court that Rao must remain in Greater Mumbai and not leave the city without permission from the special NIA (National Investigation Agency) court.

The apex court also said Rao should not “in any way misuse his liberty, nor shall he get in touch with any of the witnesses or try to influence the course of investigation”.

Rao also has to keep the NIA, which is investigating the Elgar Parishad case, informed of the medical attention received by him.

A bench of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia took into account Rao's advanced age, his medical conditions and the fact that he has already spent more than two and a half years in custody.

Rao’s woes

Cataract in both eyes

Early onset of Parkinson's disease

Hernia

Heart disease

Feet swelling

Sinusitis

Migraine

Vertigo

In March 2020, the special NIA court had denied Rao’s plea for interim bail on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. In Feb 2021, the high court finally granted him interim bail for six months on medical grounds. The bail was then extended from time to time. In April this year, however, the court denied him medical bail, but extended it for three months for him to undergo eye surgery.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court observed that charges in the case are yet to be framed, though a charge sheet has been filed, and agreed with Rao’s lawyer Anand Grover that the trial may take up to 10 years since there are 16 accused.

"How long should I be in jail? Till death? I should die in jail? They want me to die in jail like Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy who passed away last year because of serious medical negligence," Grover said.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the NIA, said the accused were themselves to blame for delaying the trial with repeated applications. Raju also argued against Rao being at risk of Parkinson’s disease and said his health condition “was not very serious”.

Rao, who has early signs of Parkinson’s, according to his counsel, submitted to the apex court that “any further incarceration would ring the death knell for him as advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination”.

Citing the UAPA charges against Rao, Raju said, “Age is not relevant owing to the gravity of the offences. Please see his conduct. He was trying to overthrow the democratically elected government of Narendra Modi.”

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