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Bhima Koregaon case: SC grants regular bail to Varavara Rao on medical grounds

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NewDelhi, Aug 10: The Supreme Court granted regular bail to activist and poet Dr P Varavara Rao, an accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case, on medical grounds.

Dr P Varavara Rao

A bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia passed the order in the Special Leave Petition filed by Rao challenging the Bombay High Court's refusal to grant him permanent bail on medical grounds.

The bench took into account Rao's age, his medical conditions and also the two and half year period of actual custody spent by him. The bench also noted that trial is yet to begin in the case and even charges have not been framed although chargesheet has been filed.

"The medical condition of the appellant has not improved to such an extent over a period of time that the facility of bail which was granted earlier be withdrawn. Considering the totality of circumstances, the appellant is entitled to bail on medical grounds", the bench said while deleting the condition imposed by the Bombay High Court that he should surrender after 3 months.

The court ordered that Rao shall not leave the jurisdiction of the concerned trial court without the permission of the trial court, he shall not misuse his liberty and he shall not be in touch with any witnesses.

The apex court said Rao shall be entitled to have medical treatment of his choice & shall keep NIA informed about the medical treatment being received by him.

The court also made it clear that bail is only on purely medical grounds; also says this order shall not impact the case of other accused.

The 83-year-old, said that he had challenged the Bombay High Court order as he was not granted an extension of bail, despite his advanced age and precarious and deteriorating health condition, and has been denied the prayer to shift to Hyderabad.

He was arrested on August 28, 2018, from his home in Hyderabad and is an under-trial in the Bhima Koregaon case for which FIR was lodged by the Pune Police at Vishrambagh Police Station on January 8, 2018, under various sections of IPC and several provisions of UAPA.

Initially, Rao said that he was put under house arrest pursuant to the order of the apex court and ultimately on November 17, 2018, he was taken into police custody and later shifted to Taloja Jail.

SC notice to NIA on Varavara Rao’s medical bail pleaSC notice to NIA on Varavara Rao’s medical bail plea

On February 22, 2021, the Bombay High Court granted him bail on medical grounds and was released from jail on March 6, 2021. Giving extensive details of his health conditions including suffering in the jail, Rao said that the order of the Bombay High Court dated February 22, 2021, had contemplated that the Petitioner could be on medical bail for an extended period, and even permanently, on medical grounds depending on his medical condition supported by medical examination reports.

On April 13, the High Court had rejected the plea but had extended the time for the 83-year-old activist to surrender before the Taloja prison authorities by three months, to enable him to undergo cataract surgery.

It had also dismissed Rao's application seeking that he be permitted to stay in Hyderabad instead of Mumbai, while out on bail.

The High Court had said it had found substance in several claims made by Rao's counsel on lack of medical facilities in the Taloja prison, located in neighbouring Navi Mumbai, and poor hygiene conditions there.

The court had, therefore, directed the Maharashtra Inspector General of prisons to submit a "candid" report on the state of such facilities at the "Taloja prison in particular," and also in all prisons across the state.

The case pertains 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.

Bhima Koregaon: Accused wanted to end Modi rule with Rajiv Gandhi like incident, says courtBhima Koregaon: Accused wanted to end Modi rule with Rajiv Gandhi like incident, says court

The Pune police had also claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.

Later, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the probe into the case.

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