Yesterday, Varavara Rao was shifted to Nanavati hospital in Mumbai after he tested positive for COVID-19 at J J hospital of the same city. Besides COVID-19, he suffers from several other ailments that aggravate his vulnerabilities to COVID-19.
The Bombay High Court while hearing his petition today asked the NIA and Maharashtra Government if his family members could be allowed to meet him from a distance. This came following the family’s plea in the court saying that the revolutionary poet was almost on his death bed. His lawyer argued that if he is to die then he should be allowed to die in the presence of his family members.
The family has also sought more clarity on his health condition. They say that the state, in gross dereliction of its duties, has provided no communication on his health status. The family, in a press release earlier this month, pled for his life saying “Don’t let Vara Vara die in jail”.
Rao is one of the ten activists who were arrest by Pune Police in the Elgar Parishad case. The case was later transferred to NIA. Rao has been lodged at Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai. News of his deteriorating first came to light in May when he was first admitted to J J Hospital after fainting in the prison bathroom. The family has been trying to gain access to more information ever since and demanding his release on bail on medical grounds. Aged 81 with comorbidities, he has been especially vulnerable to COVID-19 whose cases have been steadily rising in Maharashtra prisons. It has been argued that in his current medical condition, where he is unable to support himself, he is of no flight risk.
The court questioned whether COVID-19 patients can be allowed to meet family members as per protocol. Rao’s lawyer submitted that if allowed then the family members will exercise due caution for the same.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who represented NIA, said that Rao was being treated at one of the finest multi-specialty hospitals in accordance with ICMR guidelines. He submitted that to the best of his knowledge, COVID-19 patients cannot be allowed to meet their family members. State’s counsel, Deepak Thakare, informed the court that video conferencing facilities can be arranged for Rao’s family.