Varavara Rao granted six-month bail on medical grounds; court would’ve abdicated its duty of protecting poet’s rights if bail not granted, says Bombay HC

The Bombay High Court Monday granted six months medical bail to 82-year-old Dr. PV Varavara Rao, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. Dr. Rao is facing charges under the unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act’ (UAPA).

A division bench of Justice SS Shinde and Manish Pitale said it would have abdicated its duty in protecting his fundamental rights if it had denied bail to the ailing Telugu poet.

“With all humility at our command, keeping in view human consideration, the well recognized fundamental rights of the undertrial to have quality medical aid for serious ailments suffered by him, advanced age, inadequate facilities in the hospital attached to the Taloja Central Prison, we are of the opinion that this is a genuine and fit case to grant relief; or else, we will be abdicating our constitutional duty and function as a protector of human rights and right to health covered under right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India”, the bench said.

Justice SS Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale.

The bench added that the condition of old age, sickness, infirmity and multiple health ailments suffered by Dr. Rao indicate that his continued custody would be incompatible with his health conditions and that sending him back to Taloja Central Prison would amount to endangering his life, thereby violating his fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Court also disapproved the stand taken by the National Investigation Agency that the accused was not entitled to any relief under humanitarian or for any other grounds keeping the gravity of the offence and its barring on the state.

Dr. Rao is presently undergoing treatment in Nanavati hospital.

The bench, however, imposed stringent conditions for him to follow while on bail. They are: Dr. Rao will not leave the jurisdiction of the Special NIA Court; will attend the NIA court whenever summoned; will deposit his passport; will not speak to the media about his case; will not tamper with evidence or influence witnesses.

After the pronouncement of the order, the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) sought a stay of the order for three weeks, the court turned down the request and said when the Nanavati Hospital has declared him fit to be discharged, it cannot send him to Taloja Central Prison for three weeks which would endanger his life.

The court was ruling on a plea filed by Pendyala Hemalatha, the wife of Dr Varavara Rao, alleging violation of the poet’s right to life, dignity and health on account of the ‘degrading’ and ‘inhumane’ treatment being meted out to him in Tajolia jail.

The plea alleged that the facilities available in Talojia jail were not compatible with Dr Rao’s medical requirements.

Both Senior Advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover argued that considering Dr. Rao’s age, medical history, and multiple health complications, the prison atmosphere was absolutely not conducive to his mental and physical well-being, a fundamental right of every prisoner.

The NIA opposed the bail plea citing bar under Section 43-D (4) and (5) of the UAPA which provides that bail cannot be granted to an accused under the anti-terror statute if the prosecution makes out a prima facie case against the accused. While Jaising argued that the fundamental right to health of a prisoner could never be ousted by the shackles of Section 43(D)(5) of the UAPA, Grover’s contention was that the first proviso S. 437 (1) of the CrPC, was also not ousted by Section 43(D)(5) of the UAPA.

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