The Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered jailed poet-activist Varavara Rao to be shifted to Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai for 15 days while hearing his bail application on medical grounds.
The hearing took place physically in the court before the two-judge bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Madhav Jamdar.
The 81-year-old Rao, accused in the Elgar Parishad case, is currently lodged as an under-trial in the
Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra.
Justice Shinde said, “Whatever ailment he (Rao) is suffering, he needs to be hospitalised for 15 days for a thorough check-up,” according to Live Law.
Noting that the Telugu poet was almost on his “deathbed”, the court said Rao needed medical treatment. “Can the state say no we will treat him in Taloja? We are only saying transfer him to Nanavati for two weeks. We will further see after two weeks,” Justice Shinde said.
Appearing for Rao, advocate Indira Jaisaing said that the poet’s family had been kept in the dark about his health and the Taloja jail hospital was incapable of taking care of him. Moreover, no medical report of ailing Rao was available post-July 30.
She also submitted that the National Investigating Agency, which arrested Rao, did not follow the Covid-19 guidelines to release prisoners. Jaising added that earlier in JJ Hospital, Rao sustained head injuries. “I am alleging negligence on the part of the State. If the State is unable to look after him, he needs to be shifted to Nanavati hospital,” she was quoted as saying by Live Law. “There is reasonable apprehension that he will die in custody,” she added.
The HC had on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra government to furnish details of Rao’s medical report/condition to his wife who had moved the court to shift him to Nanavati hospital.
Maharashtra government had stated that Rao was "fully conscious and oriented" in a medical report submitted before the Bombay High Court.
However, on the submission of Rao's counsel Jaising that the report "did not shed any light on Rao's
neurological condition and the urinary tract infection he is said to have developed while at the Taloja prison", the HC directed the government to file a "complete report detailing the type of medical exam conducted through video conferencing, and all other findings".
Jaising told the court that the state government's report was an "eyewash" as it is "silent on Rao's dementia".
Rao had filed a bail application and a writ petition seeking he be shifted to Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai immediately, owing to his "diminishing neurological and physical health condition".
Since his arrest in June 2018, Rao has been in and out of the government-run JJ hospital in the city. On July 16, he tested positive for coronavirus, after which he was shifted to the Nanavati hospital. He was discharged on July 30 and sent back to the Taloja prison, Jaising said.
Last week, Jaising had urged the high court to direct the state government to shift Rao to Nanvati Hospital immediately in view of the apprehension that "Rao might lose his life while in prison" and " if he died, it would be a case of custodial death".
Following the submissions, the HC had ordered the video examination while giving the Nanavati doctors the liberty to examine Rao physically at the prison if needed.
(With inputs from PTI)