Bhima Koregaon: Poet-activist Varavara Rao’s medical bail extended till Jan 7, Bombay HC grants time to file affidavit

ON Monday, December 20, the Bombay High Court allowed time to continue to examine Bhima Koregaon/Elgar Parishad case accused Dr. P.V. Varavara Rao’s request seeking extension of his medical bail. Rao, who was granted bail for six months on February 22, 2021, got an extension till January 7, 2022 and his counsel was allowed to file the affidavit by December 28.

Last Friday, on December 17, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) told the high court bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sarang V. Kotwal that the octogenarian poet-activist Rao had already been medically examined by a panel of doctors at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital. NIA counsel Sandesh Patil informed the court of the Nanavati Hospital report that the 83 year old Rao did not need continuous medical attention or hospitalisation at present, noting that he was “able to perform activities of daily living”. The hospital’s document, however, noted that Rao experienced “some slowness in activities.”

The document submitted by the NIA said that the poet-activist currently has “minor symptoms, such as lack of sleep and slight exhaustion” while noting that Rao’s vital parameters “are in normal range.” It added that Rao’s blood pressure was slightly high for which he was prescribed requisite medication.

Meanwhile, senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Rao, referred to Rao’s bail order dated February 22 and highlighted paragraphs 77 to 81 of the order. Grover argued that in light of observations owing to Rao’s age, the authorities must ensure that Rao did not suffer from any ailments and since the medical report did state that Rao had age-related problems, hence the bail should be extended. He further argued that the high court must not accept the NIA’s conclusion without insisting on original medical reports.

On Monday, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh again submitted that Rao’s health reports were normal and hence he should have to surrender given the expiration of his bail period. “The petitioner is over 80 years of age. Obviously, there will be medical problems. But that does not mean he keeps taking extensions forever. He has to return sometime and there is no reason why the plea should survive”, said Singh. He also noted that “[t]here are [other] older people in prison” who are also being treated and that Rao “can be taken to [government-run] JJ Hospital” by the authorities.

However, Grover added that the Nanavati Hospital had submitted a similar positive report about Rao’s health earlier as well and the poet-activist had been granted medical bail. He further submitted that a short affidavit regarding the medical reports was needed to be filed through his client, and thus the bench should grant a further extension before Rao were to surrender, which the court accepted. The bench noted that the extension and affidavit request was justified in light of the orders of the previous bench which granted medical bail to Rao.

The Court gave time to Rao’s counsel until December 28 to file the affidavit and posted the matter for hearing on January 4, 2022.

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