Varavara Rao's kin seek relief from 'difficult' bail conditions set by Bombay HC

The 81-year-old poet has been ordered to stay within the jurisdiction of the Mumbai NIA court.
Writer Varavara Rao
Writer Varavara Rao
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Relatives of ailing revolutionary poet and activist Varavara Rao welcomed the Bombay High Court’s order granting interim bail to him, but said the conditions put forth by the court were difficult to be met. On Monday, the Bombay HC granted bail on medical grounds to the Telugu poet jailed in connection with the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad case for six months. At the end of the six-month period, the court said that Varavara Rao must report back to Navi Mumbai’s Taloja jail, where he can either surrender or seek an extension.

Calling the order a small relief, Varavara Rao’s nephew and editor of the Telugu monthly journal Veekshanam N Venugopal said that the conditions in the bail order are difficult to meet. One of the many conditions mentioned in the bail order is that the 81-year-old has to stay within the jurisdiction of the NIA court in Mumbai for the six-month period. Venugopal said that Mumbai being an unfamiliar city, finding a place and providing care for Varavara Rao will be difficult, given the stringent bail conditions. 

Since Varavara Rao’s 72-year-old wife Hemalatha is also ailing, they cannot stay alone, and would need someone to stay with and take care of them, said Venugopal. One of the conditions for bail is that there cannot be “any gathering of visitors, other than near relatives,” at Varavara Rao’s place of residence in Mumbai. 

“His three daughters are all employed and have children and families of their own to take care of. It’s difficult for them to move to Mumbai. We cannot employ outsiders for caretaking, since the order conditions say that only near relatives are allowed to be with him,” Venugopal told TNM. 

“Moreover, in case of a medical emergency, we do not have a support system in Mumbai. In case of an emergency, they (Varavara Rao and Hemalatha) cannot handle it on their own. We were asking to keep him with his family in Hyderabad, where we have a social support system and can join him anywhere at any time,” he added. 

The HC bench also said Varavara Rao must furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and two solvent sureties of the like amount. “It is also difficult to get sureties in Mumbai because we don’t know people very closely. We can get them in Hyderabad, but other state sureties are sometimes not allowed because of solvency certificate requirements etc. So overall it’s quite difficult to keep him in Mumbai in the present situation,” said Venugopal. 

The other conditions imposed by the court include prohibiting Varavara Rao from establishing contact with co-accused in the case or anyone else engaged in "similar activities", requiring him to make fortnightly video calls to the nearest Mumbai police station etc. 

Referring to the recent revelation that the evidence on the basis of which several activists and authors were arrested in the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad case may have been planted, Venugopal said, “When the case itself appears to have been fabricated based on fake evidence, the bail in such a case is being granted on such stringent, difficult conditions.”

While directing Varavara Rao to stay in Mumbai, the HC said it was mindful of the NIA's apprehension that once out on bail, Rao might do something to adversely impact the probe into the case. The HC has also directed him to submit his passport before the NIA court, and prohibited him from making any statements related to the case before the press, and indulging in any activity similar to what led to the FIR against him. 

(With PTI inputs)

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