The National Investigation Agency on Monday urged the Bombay High Court to dismiss the permanent medical bail plea filed by poet-activist Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgar Parishad Maoist links case, saying charges against him were "very, very serious," and, if proven, could attract the death penalty.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for NIA, told High Court Mr Rao (83) seemed to be suffering from "regular old age related issues," and the probe agency was willing to give an undertaking that requisite medical aid would be provided to him in prison or in a government hospital whenever required.
"This is a very very serious offence that concerns national security. Besides, the charges (against Rao) can even attract the maximum punishment of death penalty," Mr Singh said.
"We aren't experts and are totally relying on doctors' reports. He was granted temporary medical bail last year by High Court following a doctor's report that said he needed continued medical care. Now that he is fit for discharge, where is the question of a permanent medical bail? Does this mean he will continue to be on bail till the entire trial is over," Mr Singh asked.
A bench of Justices SB Shukre and SM Modak, however, pointed out that section 437 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) does provide for permanent bail in special circumstances, including when an accused person is ill.
Mr Singh, however, argued that doctors at the state-run JJ Hospital were competent enough to treat any ailment and Mr Rao would be provided adequate care there whenever required.
"All other prison inmates are taken to JJ Hospital. They get the same treatment. While a humanitarian view must be taken, he can't be set free (by grant of permanent medical bail)," Singh told court.
Mr Rao's counsel, senior advocate Anand Grover, reiterated that the 83-year-old Telegu poet had recently been clinically diagnosed as showing signs of "early Parkinson's disease".
He said Mr Rao's health condition and facilities at Taloja prison, where Mr Rao was lodged as an undertrial until he was granted temporary medical bail by High Court last year, were not compatible with each other.
"All is not hunky dory. Rao's clinical reports show he has early Parkinson's and the road from here goes only downhill. There is a risk of a blood clot. Can we allow that? Either the NIA has not read that report or it doesn't understand the seriousness of such risk," Mr Grover said.
"How will you manage or monitor this condition at Taloja where you don't even have an allopathic doctor," Mr Grover asked, adding that was it not the ultimate objective of all parties and the courts to ensure Mr Rao remained fit enough to stand trial in the case.
"I want to stand trial as I am confident (of charges remaining unproven). How long should I wait? Should I die before that? One person (co-accused) Stan Swamy is already dead," Mr Grover said.
The High Court closed all arguments on three pleas filed by Mr Rao, one seeking extension of the temporary bail granted to him in February 2021, another seeking modification of his bail conditions to allow him to go back to his Hyderabad home while on bail, and the third plea seeking permanent medical bail.
High Court also said Mr Rao needn't surrender before Taloja prison authorities until the final order is passed on his three pleas.
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