Supreme Court Declines To Take Up Petition For Bail For Political Prisoner Varavara Rao

The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to consider a plea for interim bail on health grounds to poet/activist/political prisoner Varavara Rao in the Bhima-Koregaon case, but asked the Bombay High Court to take up his pending petition in this regard expeditiously.

A bench presided over by Justice U U Lalit asked senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Rao’s wife to approach the High Court. The court noted that the questions regarding human rights of an accused-prisoner were involved here and that the matter was last heard by the HC on September 17

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Rao’s wife Pendyala Hemlatha, contended that his right to health was being violated.

The bench, however, said since cognizance has been taken so we cannot say detention of the man was illegal. The issue of bail was before the HC. The bail could be on merit or on medical grounds.

Jaising said the report by Nanavati Hospital was before the HC. It is bothering us that two judges recused and the matter was not being heard, she added.

“Why is the matter not being listed before the HC? We can direct for the matter to be heard by the HC in two weeks,” the bench said.

Jaising submitted that prisoners have a right to health in custody as held by the Supreme Court. She claimed that the petitioner’s right to life and dignity was being violated.

“The High Court must see if facilities at Taloja hospital is sufficient. We need to see if jail hospital has all the facilities or not. If they have, then you can’t say there is better facility in England or Nanavati. If its available, then treatment will be in jail hospital,” the bench said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the NIA in the matter.

The court finally allowed the petitioner to withdraw the plea and approach the High Court.

In her writ petition, Rao’s wife Hemalatha claimed that his continued custody amounted to “cruel and inhuman treatment,” violating his right to liberty and dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.

She said Rao was hospitalized on May 27 but was hurriedly discharged on June 2. His bail plea on the grounds of his medical condition and Covid-19 was pending despite the fact that he needed constant follow-up.

Varavara Rao and nine other activists have been arrested by Maharashtra police in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case which was initially probed by the Pune police and transferred to the NIA in January this year.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune in December 31,2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial.

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