Bombay HC Grants Permission To Political Prisoner Varavara Rao To Travel For Surgery

Mumbai, October 23, 2023: The Bombay High Court on Monday granted permission to political prisoner Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, to visit Hyderabad for a week to undergo cataract surgery.

Rao, a Telugu poet and activist who was arrested in 2018, had approached the high court with a plea to get cataract surgery done for free in Hyderabad. He had contended that he could not afford the surgery in a private hospital.

The high court said that once Rao returns to Mumbai after the first surgery, he can approach the trial court with the proposed dates of the surgery for the second eye for permission to travel again to Hyderabad.

A division bench of Justices A S Gadkari and S C Chandak passed an order in Rao’s plea which stated that the trial court failed to consider the grounds on which he sought permission and that the surgery was expensive in Mumbai. Rao claimed he was entitled to free medical treatment of up to Rs 2 lakh in Telangana state as he is a pensioner.

On June 5, a single-judge bench of Justice Sarang V Kotwal had asked Rao to approach a division bench of the high court with his plea stating that the same was essentially for modification of bail granted to him by the division bench earlier. Thereafter, Rao approached the division bench of the high court.

On April 27, a single-judge bench of Justice Amit Borkar had sought a response from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Rao’s plea and had also asked the NIA lawyer to verify whether Rao’s claims about free treatment were factually correct.

In February 2021, the high court had granted him medical bail for six months. Though it was extended from time to time, the high court in April 2022 rejected his petition 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 nod.

After the Supreme Court’s 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 and he cannot afford a cataract operation in such hospitals.

Advocate R Sathyanarayanan for Rao sought him to be permitted to go to Hyderabad for a period of 10 days for surgery of each eye, which was opposed by advocate Sandesh Patil for NIA. Patil argued that cataract surgery patients are usually discharged on the same day and Rao could stay in Hyderabad at the most for three days in a single visit.

The high court noted that NIA had not disputed the requirement of surgery and deemed to waive the condition of staying within the limit of the special NIA Court, Mumbai for a week and allowed Rao’s application.

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