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‘Varavara Rao on Deathbed’: Plea For Kin to See Him From Distance

Rao’s family claimed they had no idea about his head injury and called the sequence of events “illegal and inhuman”.

Published
India
3 min read
File image of Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao.
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Days after 80-year-old jailed poet and human rights activist Varavara Rao tested positive for COVID-19, the Bombay High Court, on Monday, 20 July, asked the Maharashtra government and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) if his family can be allowed to see him from a distance at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital.

During the hearing, Rao’s lawyer Sandeep Pasbola told the court that his client “is almost on the deathbed”, reported PTI.

Pasbola argued in court that if the Telugu poet was to expire, it should be in the presence of his family. According to a report in Scroll.in, Pasbola said, “His condition is very serious,” Rao’s lawyer Sandeep Pasbola told the court. “He hit his head against the hospital bed while he was at the JJ Hospital and sustained severe injuries. Besides COVID-19, he suffers from several ailments, he is hallucinating and is delirious.”

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‘Illegal, Inhuman’: Family Says Health Details of Rao Not Shared With Them

Meanwhile, in a press statement, Rao’s family has claimed that the details of his head injury were not shared with them and they are learning about his health updates only through secondary sources.

The statement by Rao’s wife Hemlata and his daughters said:

“Not sharing health updates of a person in judicial custody with his family is illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman.”

It further read, “Family got an official information only when he was tested COVID positive. All the other information is known to the family through secondary sources. In the absence of official information, various speculations, rumours and half truths are being spread causing further anxiety.”

Noting that the sequence of events is “not only a gross violation of the family’s right to information, but also a grave misconduct on the part of the state government institutions”, the family urged the Maharashtra government to allow a family member to always assist him, to make all medical records accessible and provide regular updates and to remove legal hurdles for him to get interim bail on grounds of health.

Court Asks NIA, Maharashtra Govt to Respond by 23 July

The court has asked the state and the NIA to respond by Wednesday, 22 July, after which his bail plea will be heard. During the proceedings on Monday, Advocate Deepak Thakare, representing the Maharashtra government, said that the state could arrange for video conferencing facilities for Rao’s family, reported Scroll.

Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the NIA, said people infected with coronavirus cannot be allowed to meet anybody and assured that the authorities are providing the best healthcare treatment to Rao.

Rao was shifted to Nanavati hospital from St George’s Hospital on 19 July after National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) urged the Maharashtra government to ensure that proper treatment is provided to the Telugu poet who was allegedly showing signs of delirium when he was first admitted to JJ Hospital from Taloja jail.

Rao was nabbed by the Pune Police in August 2018 along with nearly a dozen other activists from all over India in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence cases. All the activists have been lodged in the Taloja Central Jail, Raigad, since the past few months.

On Monday, the court also heard a petition by Anand Teltumbde and Vernon Gonsalves who sought to be tested for COVID-19 as they were in close contact with Rao in jail. The court has asked the prison authorities at Taloja jail and the NIA to respond by 23 July. The court noted that there were already some reports of inmates testing positive in Taloja jail.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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