The Bombay High Court has granted bail for six months to octogenarian poet-activist Varavara Rao, an accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, on medical grounds. He is behind bars for over two years and has spent a considerable time in hospital owing to his ripe old age and ill health.
Notably, Rao, who is in custody since August 28, 2018, awaiting trial, is currently availing treatment at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital upon instruction by the high court to the Maharashtra government.
The court said that if it did not grant Rao medical bail, it would be abdicating its duty to protect the principles of human rights and a citizen’s fundamental right to life and health.
The high court while granting the bail imposed several conditions. It said that Rao will have to submit his passport, he will have to remain in Mumbai and he will have to remain available for investigation whenever required. The court has also restricted him from contacting any of the co-accused in the case.
Relief, says Varavara Rao’s daughter
During the arguments for Rao’s bail plea, advocate Indira Jaising had submitted before the court that in the past one year since February 2020, Rao has spent 149 days in hospital.
Meanwhile, following the grant of bail, the activist’s daughter Panavi said, “We are relieved. It is a big relief to us because for the last 2.5 years, no one was getting even a small relief in this case. This is the first relief in the Bhima-Koregaon case. We are very happy but the condition is there that we have to be in Mumbai. We have to think about that and plan. We will talk to the lawyers.”
On August 28, 2018, Rao was arrested in his home in Hyderabad for his alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence that occurred on January 1, 2018. An FIR filed concerning the violence alleged that on the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon, a programme called the Elgaar Parishad had been organised in which leftist groups and Naxalites had participated.
The police alleged that the speeches made at this event, including those by Rao and others, were responsible for inciting violence that occurred the next day. Rao and other accused in the case are facing charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
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