The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said that the National Investigation Agency and Maharashtra government should keep in mind the age and health condition of poet-activist Varavara Rao while making submissions on his bail plea, PTI reported. A bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale was hearing the plea moved by Rao’s wife Hemlata, seeking relief on medical grounds.
“The petitioner is 88  years old,” Justice Shinde said, according to PTI. “Keep in view his age and health conditions. While making submissions on the bail plea, reflect on his health. We are all human beings.”
Rao, who is currently in Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital, was shifted to the medical facility, after the High Court on November 18 observed that he was “almost on deathbed”. Since then, the court has extended his stay in the hospital on December 15, December 21 and then on January 7. The NIA has, however, maintained that he was fit to be shifted back to Taloja Jail, where he was lodged before being hospitalised.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing the NIA, handed over two fresh reports from Nanavati Hospital on Rao’s health, according to Bar and Bench. Advocate R Satyanarayanan, representing Rao, said that he will make submissions after going through the reports.
The court then posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday at 3 pm, asking all the parties to consider Rao’s age and health, reported Bar and Bench.
Rao was taken into custody for his alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon case on November 17, 2018, after spending days under house arrest. He is 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 between Maratha and Dalit groups near Bhima Koregaon village on January 1, 2018.
Since his arrest, Rao has been in and out of hospitals, owing to his poor health. On July 16 this year, the activist had tested positive for coronavirus, after which he was shifted to Nanavati Hospital. He was discharged following a final assessment report on July 30 and sent back to the Taloja prison.
On November 18, the Bombay High Court had noted that the octogenarian poet suffered from neurological ailments and needed post-Covid care. “A person was on death bed and in such circumstances the state government cannot say that he should be treated in the jail,” the court had said. Following this, the Maharashtra government had agreed to shift Rao from Taloja prison to the Nanavati hospital and bear the expenses of his treatment.