Hyderabad: After two and a half years, Bombay High Court on Monday granted bail to 81-year-old ailing Telugu poet Dr. Varavara Rao on medical grounds.
The poet is an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case.
A division bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale said after 6 months he should either surrender or apply for an extension.
Rao's wife, Pendyala Hemalatha had filed a petition in the court accusing Taloja prison officials of violating Article 21 of the Constitution by not providing treatment to her husband as required. The Court had reserved its verdict on February 1.
Pronouncing its verdict today, the Bench held: "It would be inappropriate to send him back (to jail). It would be appropriate to impose such conditions."
Rao has been granted bail on the condition that he has to stay within the jurisdiction of the Special NIA Court. He was also directed not to indulge in any activities or similar activities which led to the registration of the FIR.
Just as the Court pronounced the verdict, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh sought a stay on the order for three weeks. However, the Court rejected this plea.
The Court further held that Rao has to attend the trial whenever necessary, but can apply for exemption from physical appearance.
Rao's wife had initially approached the Supreme Court, which denied relief and directed her to approach the High Court instead. Rao is presently lodged in Nanavati Hospital after Chief Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare informed the Court that the State Home Minister was willing to shift Rao to a private hospital as a special case.
During the hearing of the case, the Court had requested the lawyers to adopt a humanitarian approach while arguing, considering Rao's deteriorating health and advanced age.
"You make sure to keep in mind the age and health of Dr. Rao. He is above 80 years old. Ensure your submissions take this into account," Justice Shinde had told both counsels.
Rao was arrested on August 28, 2018, and subsequently charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) along with 16 other academics and activists. He is currently recuperating in Nanavati hospital following the High Court's intervention, in November 2020. Last month, Nanavati said Rao is hemodynamically stable and t to be discharged.
Rao and his wife, represented by Senior Advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, had requested the court sent him back to his home in Hyderabad, for at least three months owing to his advanced age and neurological condition.
National Investigating Agency and the State have vehemently argued against setting him at liberty due to the serious allegations against him. They have, however, shown their willingness to be shifted to the prison ward of Sir JJ Hospital, where his condition could be monitored.