The Supreme Court on Monday, 11 July, said it would hear on Tuesday, 12 July, a plea filed by Telugu poet and an accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case, P Varavara Rao, challenging the Bombay High Court order rejecting his prayer for permanent medical bail in the matter.
A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit posted it for hearing on Tuesday after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested that he be allowed to place on record a compilation of documents and the matter be heard on Tuesday.
"Allow me to place it on record and have it tomorrow. His interim protection is till tomorrow," Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices SR Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia.
Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Rao, said he has no objection to this.
"Can it be taken up today? I am ready, my friend is ready. We can finish it today," Grover said.
Justice Lalit told Grover that he would be sitting in a different combination at 2 pm to hear the Amrapali homebuyers matter.
The bench said it would take up the matter as item number one on Tuesday.
The Plea in Supreme Court
In his plea filed through advocate Nupur Kumar against the 13 April order of the high court, Rao has said, "The petitioner is an 83-year-old renowned Telugu poet and orator, who 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 respectfully submits that any further incarceration would ring the death knell for him as an advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination".
The plea said Rao has challenged the high court order as he was not granted an extension of bail despite his advanced age and precarious health condition, and his prayer to shift to Hyderabad was also denied.
The Case Against Rao
He was arrested on 28 August 2018 from his Hyderabad residence and is an under-trial in the Bhima Koregaon case for which an FIR was lodged by Pune police on 8 January 2018 under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Initially, Rao said he was put under house arrest pursuant to an order of the apex court and ultimately, on 17 November 2018, he was taken into police custody and later, shifted to the Taloja jail.
Bail on Medical Grounds
On 22 February 2021, the Bombay High Court had granted him bail on medical grounds and he was released from jail on 6 March, 2021.
Giving extensive details of his health condition, including his sufferings in jail, Rao said the high court order dated 22 February 2021 had contemplated that the petitioner could be on medical bail for an extended period and even permanently on medical grounds, depending on his condition supported by medical examination reports.
"The judges in the impugned judgement and order committed a serious error in proceeding on the footing that because the earlier order had granted bail for a limited period of time, namely six months, it (the earlier bench) was not prepared to grant the bail for an unlimited period of time," the plea said.
It added that after grant of bail, the petitioner's health deteriorated and he had developed an umbilical hernia for which he had to undergo surgery.
He needs to be operated for cataract in both eyes, which he has not undertaken as the cost is prohibitive in Mumbai, the plea said, adding the petitioner has also been suffering from neurological problems.
"It is submitted that in the totality of circumstances, the trial will take not less than 10 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," it said.
On 13 April, the high court had rejected the plea but extended the time for the 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 the lack of medical facilities at the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai and the poor hygienic conditions there.
The court had 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 at all prisons across the state.
The Bhima-Koregaon Case
The case pertains to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on 31 December 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 Pune police had also claimed that the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.
Later, the National Investigation Agency took over the probe in the matter.