New Delhi [India], August 10 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted regular bail to activist and poet Dr P Varavara Rao, an accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case, on medical grounds.
A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit while grating bail to Rao said that he shall not leave the jurisdiction of Greater Mumbai without permission from the Special NIA Court at the city, he shall not misuse his liberty and nor he shall be in touch with any of the witnesses.
The apex court further ordered that Rao shall be entitled to have medical treatment of his choice and he shall keep NIA informed about the medical treatment being received by him.
The bench also made it clear that bail granted to Rao is "purely on medical grounds". It said this order shall not be taken as a reflection on the merits of the matter.
"Matter has not even been taken up for framing of charges and the discharge applications by accused and others are also pending. 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has not improved to such an extent over a period of time that the facility of bail which was granted earlier be withdrawn. We thus find P Varavara Rao is entitled to bail on medical grounds. We thus delete the para limiting the bail to a period of time," the bench stated in its order.
The bench deleted the condition imposed by the Bombay High Court that he should surrender after 3 months.
Rao had challenged an April 13 judgment of the Bombay High Court which had rejected his plea for permanent bail. The High Court, however, extended the time for Rao to surrender before the Taloja prison authorities by three months, to enable him to undergo cataract surgery.
It had also rejected Rao's application to stay in Hyderabad instead of Mumbai, while out on bail.
During the hearing today, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), opposed Rao's plea for regular bail.
The ASG said that Rao's medical conditions are not very serious.
Justice Lalit, however, said that Rao is 82 years old and his medical condition has not improved over period of time.
"The broad picture is that he has been under custody for over two and half years, and he is 82 years. If there is an immediate prospect of the trial getting over, we can understand. You as a counsel tell us how long will it take for the trial to complete?" asked the bench.
The trial will be completed in one and a half year, Raju replied.
Raju said, "There cannot be medical bail in the background of such serious anti-national activity. There has to be extraordinary medical grounds. There is nothing serious apart from the age. It was only magnanimity of High Court that he was granted bail."
Senior advocate Anand Grover appearing for Rao contended that there are no charges framed against him and the trial will take a minimum of ten years to complete. Rao has Parkinson's disease and a chronic case of blood clotting, he added while seeking regular bail.
In his appeal, Rao had said that he has undergone over two years of incarceration as an under-trial, and is currently enlarged on bail on medical grounds by the Bombay High Court.
"Any further incarceration would ring the death knell for him as advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination," stated the plea.
Rao had challenged the 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 Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Rao, who was initially put under house arrest pursuant to the order of the top court, was ultimately taken into police custody on November 17, 2018, and later shifted to Taloja Jail.
Rao in his appeal said that in the totality of circumstances, the trial will take not less than ten years. In fact, one of the accused in the case, Father Stan Swamy, who was suffering from similar ailments as the Petitioner, passed away even before the trial could start, his appeal added.
In February 2021, the Bombay High Court granted him interim bail on medical grounds and was released from jail on March 6, 2021. (ANI)