Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde ask to be tested for Covid-19

The jailed activists move Bombay High Court saying they were in close contact with poet Varavara Rao who recently tested positive

Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde

In wake of 79-year-old activist poet Varavara Rao testing positive for Covid-19, two of his fellow inmates from Taloja Central Prison; activists Vernon Gonsalves and Anand Teltumbde have now moved Bombay High Court requesting that they too be tested as they were in close proximity of Rao.

The petition that was filed on Friday says, “An inmate at the prison, with whom the Petitioners were in close contact with has tested positive and thus there is an urgent need to conduct swab tests for the Petitioners and make arrangements for them accordingly.”

Both Gonsalves and Telumbde have already been put through the wringer by a vindictive state that has zero tolerance for dissenting voices. They were vilified and dubbed ‘anti-national’ for their long track record as dissenters and human rights defenders, and sent to jail on trumped up charges. They were repeatedly denied bail and booked for offences registered under sections 153, 505(1(b), 117 & 34 of Indian Penal Code 1860, Sections 13, 16, 18, 18B, 20 & 39 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2012.

The petition goes on to say, “The Petitioners are filing the present Petition as, the Petitioners who are presently lodged at Taloja Central Prison are in grave risk and danger of their lives. The Petitioners are under an imminent threat of contracting Covid 19 virus or have already contacted the same as a fellow co-accused/inmate Mr.Varravara Rao has yesterday i.e. on 16.07.2020 tested positive for Covid-19 after battling for his life for several weeks/month.”

Elaborating on how exactly Gonsalves and Teltumbde could have come into contact with the virus the petition explains, “The Petitioner No.1 (Gonsalves) was assigned the duty of being the aid of Mr.Varravara Rao. The Petitioner No.1 was helping Mr.Varravarao Rao with his day to day activities for the past three to four weeks. The Petitioner No.2 (Teltumbde) was lodged at the same hospital.”

It further says, “The Petitioners state that, the Petitioners are both high risk category candidates as both the Petitioners are senior citizens with under lying health ailments.” The petition also warns that, “Petitioners, who are at a high risk of contracting Covid-19 and posing a risk to the other inmates, without sufficient cause, is grave and absolute violation of their rights under articles 4, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950.”

The petition, therefore, asks the court to decide upon the following issues:

a. Whether the Petitioners ought to be shifted to a hospital and immediately tested for Covid-19 and kept in isolation for the safety of the public.

b. Whether the Petitioners ought to be physically isolated in a safe place where physical distancing is possible.

The petition prays that a Covid-19 swab test be conducted as soon as possible and “keep them in isolation in the jail hospital where physical distancing is possible and provide all facilities and take all such steps as may be required depending on the outcome of the test.”

The entire petition may be read here:




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