Bhima Koregaon: Supreme Court to hear Varavara Rao’s plea for permanent medical bail on August 10; he is not required to surrender until further orders

Decks are cleared for the Supreme Court’s final hearing in the matter with the issue of formal notice to NIA.

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The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, issued a notice to the National Investigation Agency(NIA) on a petition filed by activist, poet, and teacher, P.V. Varavara Rao, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case, against the Bombay High Court’s order refusing him a permanent medical bail.

A three-judge bench comprising Justice U.U. Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhansu Dhuliya, at the outset, put to the Additional Solicitor General(ASG) S.V. Raju whether he would like the bench to issue a formal notice to the NIA. Raju, appearing for NIA, requested for a formal notice. The bench, accordingly, listed the matter on August 10 for final disposal while permitting the NIA to file its objections/reply to the petition.

Senior advocate, Anand Grover, for Rao, said he has no difficulty if a formal notice is sent to the NIA.

Since the bench, on earlier occasion, ordered that Rao need not surrender until further orders, he will continue to remain out of jail.

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. The trial in the matter is yet to begin.

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.