The Bombay High Court on Monday asked poet and activist Varavara Rao to surrender before the Taloja Jail authorities in Navi Mumbai on September 25, The Hindu reported. His bail ended on September 5.
Rao is an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, which pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. He was among 16 people who were arrested for allegedly plotting the violence.
During Monday’s hearing, Rao requested the court to extend the bail granted to him on medical grounds in February. Rao was undergoing treatment at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital then and released on March 6. The bail was granted on the condition that Rao had to stay within the jurisdiction of the Special National Investigation Agency court.
The 81-year-old told the High Court that if he were to be sent back to the custody now, his health would again suffer a setback.
The National Investigation Agency opposed an extension to Rao’s bail, saying that his reports did not disclose a “major ailment” and that the Taloja Central Prison had the “best medical facilities”, according to Live Law.
Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Rao, reiterated that the 81-year-old took 13 medicines daily for neurological problems, cholesterol, blood pressure and other health conditions. He also has asymptomatic Parkinson’s and retention problems along with movement disorders with tremors and gait instability.
Grover said that Rao has also been suffering from cluster headaches – in which pain occurs around one eye or one side of the head, The Hindu reported. He said this needed further examination.
The advocate also sought modification to the bail by requesting the court to allow Rao to move to Hyderabad from Mumbai, where is currently staying with his wife Hemalatha, Live Law reported. Citing economic hardships, Grover said that the activist could receive better medical care in Hyderabad, where his son is a neurologist.
The NIA said that Rao’s request to go to Hyderabad was rejected in February, when he was granted temporary bail. The investigating agency added that Rao and his counsel could not expect the court to pass orders as per their convenience, especially when the activist has “prima facie committed offence of serious nature”.
“The economic hardship of living in Mumbai is not a ground to be looked at, at this juncture,” the NIA said.
The NIA told the court that medical bail could only be extended for health reasons. “The medical reports filed by the applicant does not disclose any major ailment which necessitates him to take treatment at Hyderabad neither it forms neither it forms ground for further extension,” it added.
The agency also observed that any modification to the bail would destroy the basis on which the order was passed by the court earlier.
The Bombay High Court posted the matter for hearing on September 27.
Bhima Koregaon case
The NIA has alleged that Rao and 15 others were part of a conspiracy to incite violence at the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial near Pune on January 1, 2018. One person was killed and several others were injured in the incident.
The first chargesheet was filed by the Pune Police in November 2018, which ran to over 5,000 pages. It named activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, all of whom were arrested in June 2018. The police claimed that those arrested had “active links” with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and accused the activists of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
One of the accused, 84-year-old tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, died in custody in July. Swamy, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and also contracted the coronavirus infection while in prison, was repeatedly denied bail despite his deteriorating health condition.
Currently, 14 activists and academicians are in custody in connection with the case. They have been jailed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in the case without any reliable evidence.
A supplementary chargesheet was filed in February 2019, against human rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Ganapathy.
The accused were charged with “waging war against the nation” and spreading the ideology of the CPI (Maoist), besides creating caste conflicts and hatred in the society.