BHC Asks For NIA’s Response To Claims Made In Political Prisoner Varavara Rao’s Request To Travel For Surgery

Mumbai, April 27, 2023: The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to respond to claims made by Telugu poet and political prisoner Varavara Rao, who is an accused in Elgar Parishad case that he can get cataract surgery done free-of-cost in Hyderabad city, Telangana state.

A single-judge bench of Justice Amit Borkar was hearing a plea by Rao, filed through advocate R Sathyanarayanan, seeking permission to travel to Hyderabad to undergo cataract surgery in both eyes.

In his plea, Rao stated that the trial court failed to consider the grounds on which he sought permission and that the surgery in Mumbai city was expensive.

Rao claimed that in Telangana, he was entitled to free medical treatment as he is a pensioner.

In February 2021, the High Court granted him medical bail for six months.

Though it was extended from time to time, the high court in April 2022 rejected his plea for permanent bail and asked him to surrender within three months.

The Supreme Court then deleted the condition to surrender but directed that he should not leave Mumbai without the NIA special court’s permission.

After the Supreme Court order, Rao approached a special NIA court seeking to travel and stay in his hometown Hyderabad for three months for medical treatment.

The special court rejected the plea on September 23, 2022, after which Rao challenged the order in the high court in November.

Rao’s plea contended that his family members are doctors and one of them is an ophthalmologist who can provide better care to him.

The plea added that Rao’s experience with government hospitals in Mumbai had been abysmal and the same was considered by the high court while granting him temporary medical bail in 2021.

He also contended that private hospitals are costly, where he cannot afford cataract operation.

After the court asked what apprehension the agency had if Rao was granted permission to visit Hyderabad for a limited period, advocate Sandesh Patil, appearing for NIA, responded, “Applicant is out on bail and cataract surgery requires an hour’s time. He can get it done in Mumbai. We are saying he is a dangerous criminal, there are serious charges against him.”

The bench then asked Patil if Rao can avail of free surgery in Hyderabad, to which Patil said that he will have to verify the same.

“Applicant filed an application stating he will get free surgery at Hyderabad. Whether this is factually correct or not… You take instructions, because that is the crux of this matter,” the bench said.

Advocate Sathyanarayanan submitted that as per Telangana state government rules, the pensioners can get free treatment up to Rs 2 lakh.

Seeking NIA’s response, the bench posted further hearing to June 5.

Rao’s lawyer sought an earlier date of hearing stating that the cataract has aggravated and there are additional medical complications.

“From your pleadings, it seems like it is not required urgently. You are out on bail. It would have been different if you were in jail,” the bench responded.

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