The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the authorities at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital to submit a report within three days on the health and medical treatment of poet-activist Varavara Rao, who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month, Live Law reported. The 80-year-old’s family had alleged that they were not being informed about his health and had written a letter to the Maharashtra government.
Justices RD Dhanuka and VG Bisht passed the order on a petition filed by Rao’s lawyer, asking that the Taloja Jail in Mumbai produce Rao’s medical records and a detailed report on his health. The court also heard a second petition against the rejection of Rao’s interim medical bail plea by a special National Investigation Agency court.
Rao’s lawyer Sudeep Pasbola told the court that neither the hospital nor the jail authorities were keeping his family updated about his health. “Mr Rao is serious and when the family contacts the jail, they are told call the hospital, and when the hospital is contacted, they are told call the jail,” he said. “What is the secrecy about his health? His family is in Hyderabad so at least a call can be arranged so they can talk to him at the hospital.”
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the NIA, told the court that the investigative agency had no objection to Rao’s family meeting him or talking to him over the phone. “If the hospital permits, we have no problem,” he said. “Nanavati Hospital is the best hospital and there should not be any grievance about his health or treatment.”
The court, then, allowed Rao’s family to visit him at Nanavati Hospital but said their visits would be was subject to coronavirus protocols. The hearing in the case has been adjourned to August 7.
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Rao was shifted from Mumbai’s St George Hospital to Nanavati Hospital on July 19, after thousands of people had urged the authorities to look after his health and provide him access to adequate medical care as his health was deteriorating. He was imprisoned in the Taloja jail after his arrest in the Elgar Parishad cases on August 31, 2018.
Last week, his lawyer told the Bombay High Court that Rao was almost on his deathbed. “Besides Covid-19, he suffers from several ailments, he is hallucinating and is delirious,” he had said.
Activist Vernon Gonsalves and academic Anand Teltumbde, who are Rao’s follow inmates at Taloja Jail, had also filed a petition in the Bombay High Court, asking that they be tested for the coronavirus since they had close contact with him in jail. During Tuesday’s hearing, Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare told the court that Gonsalves had negative for the infection. The court directed the Maharashtra government to follow the testing protocol in Teltumbde’s case too.
Rao, Teltumbde and Gonsalves are among the activists and academics who have been accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the authorities claim triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day.