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'Seriousness & Severity Of Crime Would Remain Till Such Time The Accused Is Pronounced Not Guilty': Bombay HC While Rejecting Varavara Rao's Bail Plea

Sharmeen Hakim
22 April 2022 2:43 PM GMT
Seriousness & Severity Of Crime Would Remain Till Such Time The Accused Is Pronounced Not Guilty: Bombay HC While Rejecting Varavara Raos Bail Plea
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Refusing to grant permanent bail on medical grounds to Bhima Koregaon - Elgar Parishad accused poet Varavara Rao the Bombay High Court said that prima facie observations regarding "seriousness and severity" of the crime he is accused of would remain till he is pronounced "not guilty." Therefore, based on Rao's sound clinical summary dated December 15, 2021, and the allegations against...

Refusing to grant permanent bail on medical grounds to Bhima Koregaon - Elgar Parishad accused poet Varavara Rao the Bombay High Court said that prima facie observations regarding "seriousness and severity" of the crime he is accused of would remain till he is pronounced "not guilty."

Therefore, based on Rao's sound clinical summary dated December 15, 2021, and the allegations against him of being the "main conspirator," he was not entitled to medial bail, the court held.

On April 15, the division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and GA Sanap extended Rao's temporary medical bail by another three months but refused any other relief. The order copy was uploaded today.

"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. Role attributed to the accused is serious. He is one of the main conspirators. Therefore, in our opinion, on the medical ground the accused is not entitled to get bail."

Rao, 82, was granted temporary bail on February 1, 2021 for six months noting the poor prison conditions and severe neglect of his health in prison. Through two writ petitions and an interim application, Rao had sought an extension of bail or permanent bail, considering his ailments, poor prison conditions and the high cost of living on rent in Mumbai.

The NIA opposed any relief to Rao, accusing the Telugu poet of trying to gain sympathy.

Senior Advocate Anand Grover for Rao had argued that if Rao was sent back to Taloja Jail then for want of proper medical aid, chances of his survival would be minimal. He had also submitted that Rao had pre-existing neurological issues and early onset of Parkinsons.

However, based on a private hospital report from December 15, 2021, the court said that apart from a Cataract surgery, "no other problem has been found to be serious."

Accused Can't Be Allowed to Benefit From NIA and State's Silence on Prison Conditions

Even as the NIA or the State did not defend conditions in Taloja Prison, the court said their silence could not benefit the accused and that the court could always take cognisance and issue necessary directions.

"If the strict view of the matter(prison conditions) is not taken… all the under trial prisoners would make a grievance of the same and apply for bail." Therefore, the court directed strict compliance with Maharashtra Prisons (Prison Hospital) Rules, 1970 so that no prisoner has the scope to complain about lack of medical facilities in prison.

The court said that instead of setting another precedent, it would be just and proper to make people accountable for lapses and deficiencies in future.

Accused Can't Claim Delay In Trial Without Making Application For Expeditious Hearing

Regarding Rao's claim that the evidence was voluminous and the trial would take its own time, the court said that the NIA and the accused would be at liberty to make an application before Special Judge to commence the trial at the earliest.

"The grievance made either by accused or NIA on this count cannot be entertained without making a request to Special Judge to expedite the trial."

The bench then expedited the trial and said that it be conducted on a day- to-day basis as mandated by the provisions of section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Directions

The court directed the Inspector General of Prisons Maharashtra to ensure strict compliance with the Maharashtra Prisons (Prison Hospital) Rules, 1970 regarding a medical officer and nurses etc and file a report in the court by April 30.

The court also expedited the trial and requested the Principal District Judges in Maharashtra to pay attention to prison conditions at the time of periodical visits and ensure that the provisions of the Maharashtra Prisons (Prison Hospital) Rules, 1970 are complied with in letter and spirit.

Case

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.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 154



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