Mumbai, February 2: Varavara Rao has spent 149 out of 365 days in hospital, the jailed poet’s lawyer Indira Jaising told the Bombay High Court on Monday, urging that he be granted bail on medical grounds. 

A bench comprising Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale, was hearing a writ petition and a medical bail plea filed by Varavara Rao through senior advocate Anand Grover and a writ petition filed by the jailed poet’s wife Pendyala Hemalatha, through Indira Jaising, alleging that his fundamental rights have been violated due to continued imprisonment. 

Both Grover and Jaising urged the court to let Varavara Rao on bail even for a limited period of three months, and with any condition that was deemed fit by the court, The News Minute reported.

The activist’s counsel also stated that Rao, who is currently admitted in Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, required constant monitoring and medical aid that the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai, where he is currently jailed as an undertrial, would be unable to provide. 

“Life is dear to everyone, including a prisoner, and the court is here to protect it,” advocate Jaising told the court, urging the court to release Rao out of the prison and to permit him to live with his family and friends in Hyderabad. Jaising had also told that his continued imprisonment was incompatible with his health condition.

Grover had also argued that Rao must be permitted to be taken care of by his family at his home so that he could become fit to face the case and also reminded the court that Rao had faced trial in the cases which he was arrested under and that he had either been acquitted or discharged in all the other cases.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), however, maintained since the state had assured that Rao would be sent to the JJ Hospital, the court need not grant him bail on medical grounds.  

The court, however, had remarked that a speedy trial was considered a fundamental right of a citizen and in the present case, charges were yet to be framed and 200 witnesses were still yet to be examined.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the agency, stated that the reason that there is a large number of witnesses in a case could not be the ground for granting someone medical bail and added, “It is the responsibility of the state to take care of his health, and the state is doing so.”

The HC closed all arguments in the case and reserved its verdict on Rao’s medical bail plea and Hemlatha’s writ petition. Till the court’s verdict, Rao will remain in the Nanavati Hospital. After arrest, Rao has been in police and then in judicial custody since August 28, 2018, awaiting trial.

The case related to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the ‘Elgar Parishad’ conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city. The police have claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links. Several activists and academicians have been named as accused in the case. The case was initially probed by the Pune police and later it was handed over to the NIA.

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