The Bombay High Court on Tuesday extended the duration of activist Varavara Rao’s medical bail till March 8, reported PTI.
Rao is among the 16 activists who have been charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly conspiring to set off caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018.
Rao, 82, was granted bail on medical grounds in February last year. The court has been granting extensions on the bail order since September.
During Tuesday’s hearing, a division bench of Justices SB Shukre and GA Sanap also sought to know whether the conditions at the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai, where Rao was kept, have improved, The Indian Express reported.
The bench said that if conditions had not improved, Rao would be exposed to more diseases if sent back.
“Because he [Rao] is 82 years old, he may be drug-resistant,” Justice Shukre said, according to The Indian Express. “In six months will the Taloja prison improve? He will be exposed to more diseases.”
Senior counsel Anand Grover, appearing for Rao, told the High Court that the attitude of the prosecution must change and that their endeavour cannot be to keep Rao in prison at the cost of his health, according to PTI.
Grover further pointed out that Rao’s co-accused, Father Stan Swamy, who was suffering from Parkinson’s, died in hospital while his medical bail plea remained pending in court.
“He [Swamy] would not have died had he not been put in prison,” Grover told the court, according to PTI. “You [prosecution] put someone in a position that there is no going back. The attitude of the prosecution has to be that they should try their best to get the prisoner for trial. It should not be that whatever happens to him in prison is fine.”
While in prison, Swamy had to wait for a month to get a sipper to drink water. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which made it difficult for him to hold a glass.
In his plea, Rao, citing medical reports, had told the court that he has been suffering from neurological ailments, abdomen pain which could be due to umbilical hernia and asymptomatic Parkinson’s disease. He had also sought a modification in the bail conditions to allow him to leave Mumbai and go to his home in Telangana.
On February 22, a bench then led by Justice SS Shinde had granted temporary relief to Rao remarking that the hospital attached to the Taloja Central Prison and the jail ward of JJ Hospital were ill-equipped and inadequate to take care of Rao’s health, according to The Indian Express.
The court will now hear the plea on March 8.