The health of Telugu poet and activist P Varavara Rao, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case who has been granted permanent medical bail by the Supreme Court, continues to remain poor, but the octogenarian is happy and relieved after the Supreme Court order, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice UU Lalit on Wednesday observed that the medical condition of Mr Rao, currently out on interim bail on health grounds, has not improved to such an extent that the relief granted earlier to him be withdrawn.
“His health is still not that good. He is suffering from various ailments. He is relieved and happy with the Supreme Court order making his medical bail permanent,” Mr Rao's lawyer Satyanarayan Iyer told PTI in Mumbai.
The 82-year-old poet-activist, whose hometown is Hyderabad, has been living in Mumbai since he was granted temporary medical bail by the Bombay High Court in February 2021. Since then, the temporary bail of Mr Rao, arrested four years ago, has been extended multiple times by the High Court.
“Earlier he (Rao) was living in suburban Bandra. Since March 2022, he has shifted to a rented place in suburban Goregaon. His family members, who are in Hyderabad, keep visiting him,” Satyanarayan Iyr said.
Both the High Court and the Supreme Court, while granting bail to Mr Rao, imposed a slew of conditions including that he shall not leave Mumbai without prior permission from the special NIA court that is hearing the case.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that while the chargesheet in the case has been filed, the charges against the accused were yet to be framed.
Trial commences only after charges are framed by court against accused in a case.
The activist had approached the Supreme Court after the high court in April this year refused to grant him permanent bail on health grounds noting he did not need continued medical care.
Mr Rao, in his plea seeking permanent bail, had claimed he was in prison from August 2018, when he was arrested, till February 2021 and any further incarceration would “ring the death knell for him as advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination”.
A number of human rights activists and academicians have been named accused in the case, which is being probed by the (National Investigation Agency).
Apart from Mr Rao, the only other accused out on bail in the case is activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj. She was granted default bail in December 2021 by the High Court.
Apart from Mr Rao and Ms Bharadwaj, several other human rights activists were arrested, first by the Pune police and later by the NIA, for their alleged Maoist links.
The case relates 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 prosecution claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.
Another accused in the case, Stan Swamy, a tribal rights activist who was arrested from Ranchi in October 2020, died in judicial custody in July 2021. The 84-year-old activist and Jesuit priest had filed a petition in the High Court seeking medical bail.
Pending hearing of his plea, the high court had permitted Swamy to undergo treatment at a private hospital in Mumbai, where he subsequently died.
Another accused in the case, activist Gautam Navlakha, too, had earlier complained of being kept in an 'anda' circle (high security barrack) in the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai that has caused further deterioration to his already poor health.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)