The Bombay High Court on Thursday said poet-activist Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, need not surrender before the Taloja prison authorities until October 28. The court also said it will hear on October 26 his plea seeking extension of the bail granted to him.
Rao, 82, was granted interim bail for six months on medical grounds by the HC on February 22 this year. He was scheduled to surrender and return to judicial custody on September 5. However, Rao filed an application last month through his lawyer R Sathyanarayanan and senior counsel Anand Grover, seeking extension of the bail. He also sought permission to stay in his hometown Hyderabad while out on bail.
The NIA, which is conducting a probe into the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, however, opposed Rao's plea for extension of medical bail and shifting to Hyderabad, saying his medical reports do not indicate that he suffers from any serious ailment.
In its affidavit filed before the HC last month, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had said the medical reports filed by Rao did not disclose any major ailment, which necessitates him to take treatment in Hyderabad, neither did it form a ground for further extension of the bail. The NIA further said in its affidavit that the Taloja prison, located in neighbouring Navi Mumbai, had adequate health care facilities and Rao can be provided with the "best medical facilities" in the prison. As part of the stringent conditions imposed on his interim bail by the HC, Rao has been staying with his wife at a rented accommodation in Mumbai.
At the time when he was granted bail, an ailing Rao was undergoing treatment for multiple ailments at the city-based Nanavati Hospital, a private medical facility, where he had been admitted by the state prison authorities following the HC's intervention. On Thursday, a bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and SV Kotwal extended the time granted to Rao to surrender until October 28, and said it will hear his plea further on October 26.
In his plea seeking extension of medical bail and modification of bail conditions, Rao had said that as per doctors at the Nanavati Hospital, he is suspected to have a neurological issue, known as cluster headache, that needs further examination. Rao further said in the plea that he continues to suffer from multiple ailments, including urinary tract infection with recurrent hyponatremia, suspicion of Parkinsons' disease, lacunar infarcts in six major lobes of the brain, and some eye problems.
He said in his plea that if he returned to custody in the Taloja prison, that was not equipped to cater to his medical problems, his health would certainly deteriorate and he might die. Thus, he sought that his medical bail be extended for another six months. Rao also said in his plea that he found living in Mumbai and accessing health facilities in the city unaffordable, and urged the HC to let him stay in Hyderabad while out in bail. The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the 'Elgar Parishad' conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the city's outskirts. The Pune police had claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.
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