The National Investigation Agency, which took over the probe in the Bhima Koregaon violence from Pune police in January this year, has reiterated that Varavara Rao, the octogenarian Telugu poet who tested positive for Covid-19 last week, is trying to take undue benefit under the garb of Covid-19 and his old age in seeking bail on medical grounds.
Vikram Khalate, SP, Head Office Branch, NIA, Mumbai filed a 170-page affidavit-in-reply in Rao's petition challenging rejection of bail by trial court, before the High Court on Monday. The affidavit states-
"The appellant accused Varavara Rao under the garb of the current situation on account of global pandemic Covid-19 and his old age, is trying to take an undue benefit in the aforesaid situation in seeking bail on the grounds mentioned in his application."
On May 28, Rao was admitted to JJ Hospital after complaints of giddiness, he was later discharged on June 1. Referring to the report of Superintendent of JJ Hospital regarding Rao's health then (before he tested positive for Covid-19), the affidavit states -
"It is very clear that prison authorities responded timely and provided necessary medical aid to the appellant accused Varavara Rao.
The medical record of the appellant accused and the report submitted by the Superintendent of JJ Hospital does not suggest that the appellant accused is suffering from any such ailment which necessitates to immediately obtain treatment from multi-speciality hospital from specific doctor. Thus it is clear that the pleading with regard to the medical condition of the petitioner is merely a ruse to obtain an order of interim relief which is not available to the petitioner otherwise on the merits of this case."
Rao's family has vehemently denied they were informed about the reported head injury he suffered either at JJ Hospital or St.George's Hospital, which was ultimately discovered when he was shifted to Nanavati hospital.
NIA has denied in the affidavit that the family was not informed, by stating that the Hyderabad police was informed the next day and then the local police informed the family.
Moreover, the agency also contended that during the investigation, it has been revealed that Varavara Rao is a senior leader of CPI(Maoist), a banned organisation. He was also involved in raising funds and distributing among other members of CPI(Maoist).
Similar contentions were made by NIA while opposing Sudha Bharadwaj's bail plea as well. Referring to charges against the eleven accused arrested in the case, the affidavit reads-
"Mr Rao and other accused in the case have been charged with various offences under chapter IV and V of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as well as Indian Penal Code wherein the prescribed punishment is more than seven years and may extend to imprisonment for life. Therefore even though the guidelines issued by the Maharashtra High Powered committee permits an under-trial prisoner above 60 years of age merely to apply for an interim bail, and not to be granted bail mechanically. As it is purely the discretion of the court adjudication the bail application as such the court ought to have exercised its discretion."
In yesterday's hearing, the bench of Justices SS Shinde and SP Tavade sought to know from the State and NIA whether Rao's family members can be allowed to see him from a 'reasonable distance.'
This was after Rao's counsel told the Court that he was at the death bed.