The Bombay High Court Tuesday allowed writer-poet Varavara Rao, accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, to remain at Nanavati hospital in Mumbai till the next hearing on December 21. Rao, who is lodged at Taloja Central Jail, was shifted to the private hospital following a court order on November 18.

A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice M S Karnik was hearing a petition filed by Rao’s wife P Hemalatha, seeking proper treatment for the 81-year-old Rao and his bail on health grounds.

The HC in its December 3 order had noted, “Pursuant to the November 18 order, Rao has been referred to Nanavati hospital. Since the matter is adjourned to December 15, Rao may not be discharged from Nanavati hospital without informing court. Earlier, November 18 order (related to visit of family members) shall continue.” On Tuesday, the court continued its interim order till December 21.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing the National Investigation Agency (NIA), submitted that the probing agency had preliminary objections to the pleas.

Singh submitted that Rao’s health has improved, and hence he should be sent back to Taloja jail. He further submitted that Hemalatha’s application for shifting Rao to Nanavati Hospital and seeking bail was not as per procedure, and she had directly approached the HC without first applying before the special court.

Responding to the objections, senior counsels Anand Grover and Indira Jaising submitted that Rao was suffering from ‘inherent ailments’ prior to his arrest. He approached the HC as he had contracted Covid- 19, after his application was rejected by the special court.

Grover submitted that though Rao was moved to J J Hospital, St. George’s Hospital and then Nanavati Hospital as per the HC order and received treatment, his condition was such that he needed constant medical care. This care was not available in the hospital attached to Taloja jail, as they did not have the requisite personnel and facilities.

Grover further submitted that Rao was not averse to standing trial and would not abscond, and hence there was no impediment in allowing his release so he could go home in Hyderabad and be taken care of. “Rao has been chargesheeted in over 24 cases during his life and he has been acquitted in all of them. He has never absconded. He has appeared in all trials. He knows he had no role in the present case and is willing to stand trial,” said Grover.

Grover also submitted that Rao was eligible for emergency bail based on guidelines issued by the state High Powered Committee ( HPC) for release of prisoners despite being booked under the Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act (UAPA).

After hearing submissions, the bench observed that objections raised by NIA about Rao directly approaching HC and seeking bail were not valid as the Supreme Court in a recent judgement had set a precedent for HCs to hear interim and bail applications wherein Article 226 or article 482 of the Constitution of India are invoked. However, the court said it would want to hear arguments by NIA, jail authorities and the petitioner before passing any orders, and posted further hearing to Monday, December 21.

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The author Kunal

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