‘Varavara Rao almost on his deathbed’: Lawyer to Bombay HC

Varavara Rao’s lawyer told the court that ‘his condition is very serious’ and urged the court to let him die in the presence of his family.
‘Varavara Rao almost on his deathbed’: Lawyer to Bombay HC
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The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Maharashtra government to inform it about the health condition of poet Varavara Rao, who is an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoists links case. The court also asked if his family could be allowed to see him “from a reasonable distance”.

The directions came after Rao's lawyer told the court that the activist was "almost on his deathbed".

Rao, 81, is currently admitted in the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai. He tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month and is also suffering from several other ailments.

A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and SP Tavade asked the NIA and the state to inform the court about Rao's health condition and clarify by 22 July whether his family members could be permitted to see him.

Rao's lawyer Sudeep Pasbola told the court that the activist was "almost on his deathbed" and that if he were to die, it should be in the presence of his family.

"His condition is very serious. He hit his head against the hospital bed while he was at the JJ Hospital and sustained severe injuries. Besides COVID-19, he suffers from several ailments, he is hallucinating and is delirious," Pasbola said.

"His days are numbered and if he is to die, at least let him die in the presence of his family members," the lawyer said while seeking that Rao be granted bail.

Meanwhile, accusing the hospital authorities of concealing crucial information, Varavara Rao’s family on Monday demanded regular, transparent health updates of the ailing poet. Disturbed over media reports that Rao sustained a head injury while being treated for COVID-19, the family said that hospital authorities did not share this information with them. 

“The news that he suffered a head injury whether in JJ Hospital or St George, but discovered on arrival at Nanavati, made us highly perturbed and worried about his safety and well-being. It is the family’s right to get official transparent updates on his health status, line of treatment and probable risks, but the concerned prison, police and health administrations in a gross dereliction of their duties have not come out to family with the much needed information. 

This is not only a gross violation of the family’s right to information, but also a grave misconduct on the part of the state government institutions,”  Varavarao’s Rao wife, Hemalatha and daughters--P Sahaja, P Anala, P Pavana wrote in a statement.

On Monday, it was reported that the 81-year-old suffered a head injury during his stay in JJ Hospital, a week ago, which required stitches. After reports speculated that Varavara Rao could have fallen from the bed, JJ Hospital in-charge dean, Dr Ranjit Mankeshwar, clarified that the poet suffered the injury when he tried to reach out for water and his head hit the corner of the bed.

However, this incident was not shared with his family, who learnt about it through the media. 

“Not sharing health updates of a person in judicial custody with his family is illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman,” the family said.

The family said that the only official information so far they got from the authorities was that Varavara Rao had tested positive for coronavirus, and all the other information they learnt through secondary sources. 

“In the absence of official and transparent information, various speculations, rumours and half truths are also being spread causing further anxiety to family and friends,” they said.

Varavara Rao, an undertrial prisoner, has been accused of plotting the assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has also been accused of the Elgar Parishad-Maoists links case, and is presently availing treatment in Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai. He was shifted from St George Hospital on Sunday. Prior to that he was admitted to JJ Hospital, where he suffered the injury. 

The family put forth the following demands:

1. To allow a family member to assist/attend since he is reportedly not in a position to do anything on his own. 

2. To immediately direct the hospital administration or prison administration to provide transparent, official updates on Varavara Rao’s health status and line of treatment on a regular basis once or twice in a day as long as he is in hospital. 

3. To provide the family a contact in the hospital to seek and get the information. 

4. To make all his medical records accessible to the family. 

5. To remove hurdles and enable the judicial process to grant regular bail or interim bail on health, age and COVID-19 grounds so that his family will take care of his health in a hospital of their choice.

In yet another development, a group of 145 international scholars issued another statement demanding the immediate release of Varavara Rao and10 other activists accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence, amid the coronavirus outbreak. The signatories included  Noam Chomsky, Barbara Harriss-White, Jonathan Spencer, Jens Lerche, Indrajit Roy, David Mosse, among others.

 “Conditions in the jails in which these prisoners of conscience have been kept are said to be unhealthy and the threat of spread of infection has grown. Rao, who is 81 years old, has now tested positive for COVID-19 and is seriously ill with several comorbidities. His condition suggests clear neglect of his health by the authorities. We join other international scholars in appealing for the immediate release of Rao and the other Elgar Parishad activists,” they said.

 PTI inputs


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