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Opinion

Bhima Koregaon case: Poet Varavara Rao will be transferred to hospital for 15 days

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On Wednesday, the Bombay High Court ordered Maharashtra to transfer the octogenarian Telugu poet P Varavara Rao from Taloja Prison in Mumbai to Nanavati Hospital for 15 days for medical treatment, and the state stressed that this was a special case that did not it could be treated as a precedent.

The order of a two-judge tribunal, consisting of SS Judges Shinde and Madhav Jamdar, came at the request of Rao’s wife, Hemlata, who alleged that the poet’s health had drastically deteriorated and that his continued detention, for two years, it was rape. of their fundamental rights.

The state and the National Investigative Agency (NIA), which is investigating the case, first opposed any transfer, then said the poet, who faces charges under the Prevention of Illegal Activities Act for his alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon riots of 2018, he could be transferred to a government facility and eventually he would have to pay for his treatment.

But the court rejected all the arguments and asked that Rao not be released from the hospital without his consent.

Ultimately, there is a man on his deathbed. He is 80 years old and suffers from a serious illness. He will come to court. Can the state say that we will not treat him in Taloja? the court said.

Rao’s lawyer, Indira Jaising, told the court that his family feared he might die if he was not transferred to a hospital and also requested bail. The court said it will hear the bond statement on December 3 and requested Rao’s medical report after treatment at Nanavati Hospital.

Jaising told the court that Rao was bedridden, delirious frequently, and had lost his grasp of reality. He also claimed that Rao previously tested positive for Covid-19 and that his family was concerned that he might suffer complications in the form of organ failure given his age.

Additional Attorney General Anil Singh, who appeared for the NIA, objected to the statement, saying that Rao could be transferred to JJ Hospital as all tests could be done there.

The court noted that government hospitals were overloaded due to Covid-19 and asked Singh if he would admit his relatives to JJ or St George hospitals. He said it wasn’t like people weren’t being admitted and treated in these places. He also said that transferring Rao to Nanavati Hospital would set a wrong precedent.

Jaising objected, saying that Rao’s family found him lying in a pool of urine at JJ Hospital and that if Rao died for lack of proper medical treatment, it would amount to death in custody. “Death is inevitable, but there should be some dignity,” he said.

The court ordered that the cost of Rao’s treatment at Nanavati Hospital, a private facility, will be borne by the state government. Prosecutor Deepak Thakre, representing the state government, initially suggested that Rao should bear the cost of treatment at Nanavati Hospital.

But Jaising argued that the Supreme Court held that a state could not cite a lack of money as a reason for not taking care of the fundamental rights of citizens. The court accepted the presentation and reminded the state that even at Nanavati Hospital, Rao would remain in judicial custody.

“He (Rao) is in his (state) custody. Even in the hospital it will remain in your custody, so you pay for the treatment, ”said the bank.

Thakre then spoke with Maharashtra Interior Minister Anil Deshmukh and told the court that the state had no objection to the statement. He said that Rao’s transfer to a private multi-specialty hospital would be treated as a “special case” and not as a precedent for other cases.

Rao is among more than a dozen academics and activists arrested for their alleged ties to Maoists and for allegedly instigating violence in Bhima Koregaon, near Pune, on January 1, 2018. The activists are accused of delivering speeches provocateurs at an event called Elgar Parishad in Pune on January 1, 2018. December 31, 2017, and conspiring to foment riots that killed one person and left many injured.

Hemlatha moved the court last week after learning of Rao’s deteriorating health at the prison hospital.

Jaising claimed that when Rao was arrested two years ago, he was healthy. She said his condition deteriorated inside the jail, adding that co-defendants Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira took care of Rao, but they had no medical training. Jaising blamed the state’s negligence for a head injury that Rao suffered while advocating for the need to transfer his client to Nanavati Hospital. Jaising said that Rao’s mental health was failing and that his ability to eat was also compromised.

Rao was arrested in August 2018. He was first taken to JJ Hospital on May 28 after he fell unconscious, but was discharged on June 1. The family alleged that Rao was hastily discharged to obstruct his release of bail. His bond was denied by an NIA court on June 26.

Rao continued to show signs of delirium and was re-admitted to JJ Hospital on July 13. Later, he was transferred to St George’s Hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.

On July 13, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a notice to the Maharashtra government, asking it to ensure that Rao was taken care of. Maharashtra’s chief secretary responded on July 22 and said appropriate care was provided.

In October, Hemlatha applied to the Supreme Court for bail, but a three-judge court on October 29 asked the Bombay High Court to hear his statement as soon as possible.

Last week, a Mumbai high court divisional court ordered the state government and the NIA to arrange an immediate video medical consultation for Rao with the doctors at Nanavati Hospital.

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