Poet-activist Varavara Rao’s counsel on Tuesday asked the Bombay High Court to grant him bail on medical grounds, submitting that the Taloja Prison hospital lacks adequate infrastructure to treat him, PTI reported.
A bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale was hearing a plea moved by Rao’s wife Hemlata, seeking relief. In an earlier hearing on January 13, the National Investigation Agency had submitted the health report of Rao from Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital, where he is currently admitted. The court had asked the NIA and Maharashtra government to keep in mind Rao’s age and health conditions, while making submissions in the bail plea.
On Tuesday, Senior Advocate Anand Grover, representing Rao, said his latest health report shows that the 81-year old was “hemodynamically stable and fit for discharge”. Grover, however, submitted that Rao would require “constant monitoring and medical attention” and the facilities at the Taloja Jail were inadequate for that.
Rao was shifted to Nanavati Hospital, 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.
On Tuesday, Grover said Rao was suffering from kidney failure and a host of other ailments for which he was being administered around 20 different medicines a day when he was admitted at the Taloja Prison hospital. He said the medicines were for serious health problems like heart ailments, blood pressure, and recurring delirium with dementia-like symptoms.
The lawyer urged the court to let Rao stay with his family, so that he can be fit to face the trial against him in the Bhima-Koregaon case.
“The Taloja prison hospital is not equipped to monitor him,” Grover said, according to PTI. “There are structural problems. And we do not want the public exchequer to be used for this [Rao’s treatment], especially when there are two doctors in his house. His daughter and son-in-law are doctors.”
Grover added that Rao was not taken care of properly when he was admitted to JJ Hospital in Mumbai last year. To this, the court interjected saying that the facilities in government-run JJ Hospital and St George Hospital were considered “among the best”.
Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing the NIA, told the judges that Rao had recovered enough to be discharged and shifted to the Taloja Prison. He also argued that Rao’s initial medical reports did not mention that he suffered from dementia, as was now being claimed by his lawyer. Grover responded that Rao was prone to delirium as the sodium-levels in his body have a tendency to lower.
The court will continue hearing the bail plea on Wednesday, PTI reported.
Bhima Koregaon case
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 last 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.