"Further Incarceration Will Ring Death Knell For Him" : Varavara Rao Moves Supreme Court Seeking Bail In Bhima Koregaon Case
The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear on 11th July a petition filed by Telugu poet and Bhima Koregaon – Elgar Parishad accused P Varavara Rao challenging Bombay High Court's order refusing to grant him permanent medical bail.
A bench comprising Justice Surya Kant and Justice JB Pardiwala issued the direction after the matter was mentioned by Senior Advocate Anand Grover.
Through the impugned order passed on April 13, the Bombay High Court had refused him permission to reside at his home in Telangana but had extended the period of temporary bail by three months for his cataract operation and issued directions to expedite the trial.
"Seriousness and severity of the crime would remain till such time the accused is pronounced not guilty of the crime alleged to have been committed by him...", the High Court had observed in the order.
Varavara Rao, currently enlarged on bail on medical grounds, has through the present special leave petition submitted that any further incarceration would "ring the death knell" for him as advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination.
The petition mentions that another accused, 83-year old tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy, had passed away while in custody in the case in July 2021.
The petitioner has submitted that after the grant of bail in February 2021,his health deteriorated and he developed umbilical hernia for which he had to undergo surgery. Further, He also needs to be operated for cataract in both his eyes, which he has not undertaken as the cost in Mumbai is prohibitive.
The petition has argued that it is a settled law and the Supreme Court has held that bail can be granted in UAPA cases despite the statutory bar on bail when there is a violation of fundamental rights.
A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and GA Sanap passed the order on two writ petitions and an interim application filed by Rao for extension of bail or permanent bail considering his ailments, and the high cost of living on rent in Mumbai.
It added that during the course of the argument, certain facts concerning Taloja prison were brought to its attention. The deficiencies have been noticed and certain directions have been issued in that regard.
On February 1, 2021 the HC had granted bail to the 82-year-old for six months and imposed stringent conditions, one of them being that Rao shouldn't leave the jurisdiction of the Special NIA Court in Mumbai.
The bench had observed that the octogenarian's continued incarceration was inconsistent with his health.
"With all humility at our command, keeping in view of the human condition, in view of advanced age and inadequate facilities at Taloja jail hospital, we are of the opinion this is a genuine and fit case to grant relief or else we will be abdicating our constitutional duties as a protector of human rights and right to health covered under Article 21," the court had observed granting him temporary bail.
The NIA has accused Rao and 14 other activists of furthering the agenda of the banned CPI(Maoist) and conspiring to overthrow the government. They are booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) based on letters/emails primarily retrieved from their electronic devices.
As part of a criminal conspiracy, NIA alleged that the Elgar Parishad Cultural Event was organized in Pune on December 31, 2017. The agency alleged that the inflammatory speeches at the event contributed to the caste violence at Bhima Koregaon the following day.
The accused have claimed that while most of them hadn't participated in the event or weren't named in the FIR, the electronic evidence is planted.
Case Title: Dr P Varavara Rao vs National Investigation Agency & Ors