The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday urged the Bombay High Court to dismiss the permanent medical bail plea filed by poet-activist Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgar Parishad Maoist links case, saying charges against him were “very, very serious” and, if proven, could attract the “death penalty”. Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for NIA, told the HC Rao, 83, seemed to be suffering from “regular old age related issues”, and the probe agency was willing to give an undertaking that requisite medical aid would be provided to him in prison or in a government hospital whenever required.
“This is a very, very serious offence that concerns national security. Besides, the charges (against Rao) can even attract the maximum punishment of death penalty,” Singh said. “We aren't experts and are totally relying on doctors' reports. He was granted temporary medical bail last year by the HC following a doctor's report that said he needed continued medical care. Now that he is fit for discharge, where is the question of a permanent medical bail? Does this mean he will continue to be on bail till the entire trial is over?” Singh asked.
A bench of Justices SB Shukre and SM Modak, however, pointed out that Section 437 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) does provide for permanent bail in special circumstances, including when an accused person is ill. Singh argued that doctors at the state-run JJ Hospital were competent enough to treat any ailment and Rao would be provided adequate care there whenever required. “All other prison inmates are taken to JJ Hospital. They get the same treatment. While a humanitarian view must be taken, he can't be set free,” Singh told court.
Rao's counsel, senior advocate Anand Grover, reiterated that the 83-year-old had recently been clinically diagnosed as showing signs of early Parkinson's disease. He said Rao's health condition and facilities at Taloja prison, where he was lodged as an undertrial until he was granted temporary medical bail by HC last year, were not compatible with each other.