New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday requested the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court to list before an appropriate bench at the earliest plea for seeking the release of activist and poet Dr P Varavara Rao, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, on medical grounds.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said it is “bothered” by how the Bombay High Court has not heard the plea filed by Varavara Rao seeking his release.
The apex court took into note that the last hearing in the bail matter of Rao before the Bombay High Court was on September 17 and asked Rao’s wife to appeal before the High Court and apprise it on her husband’s need for specialised medical treatment.
Pendyala Hemalatha, the wife of 81-year-old Rao, had approached the top court seeking the release of her husband from jail on medical grounds. She had urged to release him on temporary medical bail and sought to allow him to travel to Hyderabad to be with his family.
Rao is charged with sedition and offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The plea, filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes, sought bail on medical grounds and alleged violation of his rights claiming inhuman treatment was being given to Rao in jail, besides a lack of medical care.
Pendyala has submitted that her husband has been “forced to live in inhumane conditions” which is evident from the fact that as per the call from the co-accused to his family, Rao has been suffering from a urinary infection due to the urine bag which hasn’t been changed for the past 40 days, the plea stated.
“The treatment meted out to her husband amounts to cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and amounts to a form of punishment not permitted by law, and entitled him to immediately be set at liberty by the apex court in the exercise of his right to life and liberty,” it added.
The plea alleged that when Varavara Rao was hospitalised on May 27, 2020, he was hurriedly discharged on June 6 while his bail plea on the ground of his medical problems and COVID-19 was pending, only to avoid judicial determination of his bail on medical grounds.
Given the present medical condition and the fact that Rao is aged about 81 years, the question that would arise is whether the jail would have the necessary facilities to take care of her husband, the plea said.
The petition also mentioned that when her husband was arrested on August 28, 2018, he had no neurological problems, adding that it is therefore highly likely that COVID-19 and the fall that he had in St George hospital has led to neurological problems as reflected in the medical report filed by Nanavati Hospital July 30, 2020.
Even the report submitted by the Nanavati Hospital states that Rao requires monitoring and after he was discharged and to date, it is known through his communication with her and from the co-accused attendants that his health condition continues to be precarious, the plea said.
“The chance of commencement of trial in the immediate future is bleak and charges are yet to be framed… The investigation is still continuing and charge sheet running into 10,000 pages against seven accused who are arrested after the National Investigation Agency took over the investigation. There is no bar to grant bail on health grounds under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or the National Investigation Act,” it added.
The plea said, in any event, Dr Varavara Rao is in no position to stand trial in his present condition and needs critical medical care to keep him alive and hence no useful purpose is being served by his continued incarceration except to torture him beyond human endurance.
All bail applications are by definition urgent and ought to be given priority in hearing by all judicial authorities especially in the time of COVID 19, the plea said.