Bombay HC directs Varavara Rao’s medical examination via video link

The Bombay High Court Thursday ordered a medical examination of Dr. Varavara Rao through video by the doctors of Nanavati hospital to gauge the present medical health of Dr. Rao, whose condition, according to his wife, has been deteriorating.

The Court also said if the doctors are of the opinion that a physical examination of Dr. Rao will be required, the same will be facilitated by the Talojia jail authorities where he is presently locked-up for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon case.

The court clarified that the medical examination would be done by the same doctors who had prepared his medical report in July this year.

A bench of Justices Justices A K Menon and S P Tavade directed that the exercise be carried out forthwith and went on to list the matter for further hearing on November 17.

It also directed that the medical report be placed before the court and also provided to the petitioner, his wife.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, for the petitioner, submitted that she apprehended that Dr. Rao would lose his life if he continues in jail.

“He suffers from a neurological condition, he is bedridden, his catheter is not changed for more than 40 days. Do you think a man bedridden can flee?” Jaising asked.

Jaising questioned why Dr.Rao was abruptly discharged from Nanavati hospital on  August 28, without informing the Bombay High Court or his family, despite the fact that his medical report had suggested that he would require close monitoring.

She asked that as immediate relief, Dr. Rao be shifted to Nanavati hospital for proper medical care and examination. Jaising added that the degrading and inhuman condition of Dr. Rao’s detention violated his Righ to Life, dignity, and health.

Appearing for the NIA, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh submitted said Dr. Rao had been admitted to a super speciality hospital. “Whenever the family wanted to see them, we let them meet them.”

The Court said that a team from Nanavati hospital could assess Rao to evaluate his medical condition. The Bench said-

“A medical assessment cannot be opposed by the State. Chief PP Deepak Thakare, what we propose is to get a team of doctors from Nanavati Hospital to assess his situation.”

Chief Public Prosecutor  Deepak Thakare submitted the latest medical report of Dr. Rao which was not shared with the petitioners.

The Court eventually ordered a medical examination of Dr. Rao via video and granted liberty to the doctors to examine him in person if needed.

The Court was hearing the plea filed Pendyala Hemalatha, the wife of Dr Varavara Rao, alleging violation of the Right to Life, Dignity and Health of her husband on account of the ‘degrading’ and ‘inhumane’ treatment being meted out to Dr. Rao in Tajolia jail.

The plea stated that Dr. Rao was completely bedridden in Talojia jail in diapers and a urinary bag with two co-accused as his 24-hour attendants who are not medically trained persons. This, the plea, stated had caused him to suffer from further urinary infection and added to his medical woes.

The Supreme Court on October 29, asked the Bombay High Court to expedite the hearing of the bail application filed by noted poet Dr. Varavara Rao on medical grounds.

Earlier this year, the poet-activist’s deteriorating health condition had caused national and international outrage after his family pleaded to save him from dying in jail. The poet is lodged in Taloja jail’s hospital which according to his wife, lacks medical facilities and is grossly ill-equipped to provide him with the care that he needs.

Dr. Varavara Rao was arrested in 2018 for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon case.

On May 30, after news of the state’s neglect of his health condition hit national headlines, he was quickly transferred to J J Hospital and discharged two days later without any further information. Within a few days, his condition deteriorated further and he was readmitted to J J Hospital on July 13. Reportedly, when the family visited him at the hospital, he was found lying in a pool of urine without any nurse or attendant.

Later Dr. Rao tested positive for COVID-19 on July 16. He was shifted to St George Hospital and then finally to Nanavati Hospital on July 30. The Nanavati hospital, in its report, inter-alia noted that “considering the comorbid factors of age, persistent hyponatremia in the COVID 19 case, the patient will require close monitoring.”

On August 28, without informing the Bombay High Court or his family, the state discharged the poet and sent him back to Taloja Jail. He has been in the jail hospital ever since.

Read Order