Bhima Koregaon: Supreme Court says Varavara Rao need not surrender until further orders, to hear his plea for medical bail next week

The next date of hearing of Rao’s plea is July 19.


EARLIER today, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, extended interim protection to activist, poet, and teacher P. Varavara Rao. The court adjourned Rao’s plea for permanent medical bail to July 19 and held that interim protection will continue to be allowed to Rao until further orders.

Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the National Investigation Agency, prayed for an adjournment. Senior Advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Rao, agreed for the matter to be posted on a later date. The court granted the plea for the adjournment, with the interim protection to be extended to Rao until any further orders of the court, as against the next date of hearing, with Mehta insisting on the protection to be granted only until July 19.

Earlier, Grover had mentioned the appeal before a vacation bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and J.B. Pardiwala, seeking an urgent listing of the appeal, given that the time for Rao to surrender is expiring on July 13.

On February 22 last year, a division bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and Manish Pitale of the Bombay High Court had granted medical bail for six months to Rao. Since then, he has repeatedly sought and been granted extensions from surrendering. The bench also directed that on completion of a period of six months, Rao would surrender to the jail authorities, or he may apply for an extension, depending upon his health condition, supported by medical examination reports.

However, on April 13 this year, a division bench comprising Justices S.B. Shukre and G.A. Sanap dismissed the petitions filed by Rao seeking permanent medical bail, and directed him to surrender within three months.

Rao has preferred an appeal in the Supreme Court against this order of the Bombay High Court.

Rao is an under-trial in the Bhima Koregoan case and is facing prosecution under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. It is to be noted that the trial is yet to begin in the Bhima Koregoan case. The prosecution has filed a chargesheet exceeding 5,000 pages and intends to cross-examine at least 200 witnesses. Thirteen of the 16 accused persons have now spent between one to over three years in judicial custody without trial.

Rao had been arrested in August 2018 and suffered incarceration for over two and half years before being granted medical bail owing to his failing health.

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