Bhima Koregaon case: SC grants Varavara Rao bail on medical grounds

SC deletes HC condition to surrender after three months

Varavara Roa

In huge relief for Varavara Rao, the 84-year-old Telugu poet who is one of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, the Supreme Court has granted him bail on medical grounds. Granting him further relief, the court also did away with the Bombay High Court’s condition for him to surrender after three months.

Rao had filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) challenging a Bombay High Court order that denied him permanent bail on medical grounds. Rao had been granted temporary bail on medical grounds in April this year, but there was a requirement for him to surrender at the end of the bail duration. Though extensions had been granted previously, Rao had not been granted permanent bail.

This despite the fact that he is not only elderly, but his medical condition has been declining behind bars. He has suffered from a bout Covid-19, and was once even taken to JJ Hospital in an unconscious state. His family have often mentioned that his memory has become foggy, and speech has turned incoherent.

Submissions by Rao’s advocate and NIA

Senior Advocate Anand Grover appeared for Rao and submitted that Rao had many underlying comorbidities including Parkinson’s Disease. However, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju denied that Rao’s scan showed any evidence of Parkinson’s Disease, and also claimed that Rao’s medical condition was not very serious.

According to LiveLaw, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) had opposed the grant of permanent bail to Rao submitting his acts have “a direct impact on the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India,” and were “against the interest of state and society.”

Court’s observations

However, today, a bench of Justices UU Lalit, Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia, took into account Rao’s age, his ailments and the fact that he had already spent two and a half years in captivity. The bench also noted that though the chargesheet has been filed, charges against him are yet to be framed and the trial is yet to begin.

According to LiveLaw, the bench observed, “The medical condition of the appellant has not improved to such an extent over a period of time that the facility of bail which was granted earlier be withdrawn. Considering the totality of circumstances, the appellant is entitled to bail on medical grounds.” The court also deleted the condition imposed by the Bombay High Court for Rao to surrender after three months.

The court allowed Rao to seek medical attention as per his choice and keep the NIA authorities informed of his medical condition. The court also ordered Rao to not leave the area of Greater Mumbai without express permission from the Special NIA Court. The court also forbade him from contacting any witnesses or doing anything to influence the investigation. The court clarified that the grant of bail was not to be misconstrued as a reflection on the merits of the matter.

Brief Background

Rao was arrested in August 2018 but was remanded to house arrest until November 2018, when he was taken to Pune. It was alleged that Rao was a member of banned organisation – Communist Party of India (Maoist) and was actively involved in arranging funding and providing arms and ammunition to the organisation to wage war against the established Government.

In February 2021, the Bombay High Court had granted medical bail to Rao owing to his deteriorating health in the past one year and while also taking into consideration his advanced age. He was admitted to the hospital multiple times for various reasons including contracting Covid-19 and some infections, and he was finally granted bail after the court took a humanitarian view towards his condition.

While the court, when it granted bail for six months, had stated that he was free to be discharged from Nanavati Hospital, it directed that Rao cannot leave the jurisdiction of Mumbai.

On April 13, 2022, the Bombay High Court extended the temporary bail of Telugu poet Varavara Rao by three months, while refusing the petition seeking permanent bail and disallowing permission to stay in his Telangana home in Hyderabad.

In his current plea he had mentioned that he couldn’t afford to live in Mumbai with his 72-year-old wife away from his home in Telangana.

In July 2022, the Supreme Court had extended the interim protection to the activist and poet, till further orders.

It is pertinent to note that out of all the accused in Bhima Koregaon case, Rao is the only one who had been granted temporary bail on medical grounds, while other elderly and ailing accused continue to languish in prison. Readers would recall that 84-year-old Fr. Stan Swamy who had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and had never fully recovered from a bout of Covid-19, died on July 5, 2021, incidentally on a day when his bail plea was being heard.

The copy will be updated with a copy of the bail order when it becomes available.



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