Varavara Rao granted bail for 6 months by Bombay HC in Bhima Koregaon case

The Bombay High Court on Monday granted bail to 81-year-old poet-activist Varavara Rao in the Bhima Koregaon case on medical grounds. Granting six-month bail to Rao, the court said that the poet-activist will either have to surrender or apply for an extension. He is currently undergoing treatment at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital where was admitted by the Maharashtra government following the high court’s intervention.

A bench of Justices S S Shinde and Manish Pitale, however, said that Rao will have to stay in Mumbai and be available for investigation, adding that he will have to submit his passport before the NIA court and is forbidden to establish any contact with his co-accused in the case. “We are of the opinion that this is a genuine and fit case to grant relief or else we will be abdicating our constitutional duties as protector of human rights and right to health covered under right to life of article 21 of the constitution,” Justice Shinde said, as reported by Bar and Bench.

Mr Rao has been asked by the court to remain in Mumbai and be available for investigation whenever needed. He will also have to submit his passport before the NIA (National Investigation Agency) court, and he has been forbidden to establish any contact with his co-accused in the case. He has to submit a personal bond of ₹ 50,000 and two sureties of the same amount. He has been in custody since August 28, 2018, awaiting trial in the case.

Rao, through his lawyer Indira Jaising, had moved the Bombay High Court, urging it to release him from the Taloja prison and permit him to visit his family in Hyderabad over his poor health condition. Earlier this month, his lawyer, Indira Jaising highlighted his poor health condition before the Bombay High Court, saying that of the 365 days since last February, he spent 149 days in the hospital. She urged the court to let Mr Rao out of Maharashtra’s Taloja prison where he is lodged as an undertrial and to permit him to go home and stay with his family in Hyderabad.

Notably, the HC on February 1 had closed all arguments in the case and reserved its verdict on Rao’s medical bail plea and his wife Hemlatha’s writ petition that alleged a breach of his fundamental rights due to inadequate medical care and his continued incarceration. The high court today said if it did not grant Mr Rao medical bail, it would be abdicating its duty to protect the principles of human rights and a citizen’s fundamental rights to life and health.

Rao, along with nine others, is the main accused in the Bhima Koregaon case that is being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) involves allegations of provocative speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed led to violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial. He is accused of making provocative speeches 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 police have also alleged that the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.

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