Bombay HC Orders Examination of Varavara Rao by Nanavati Hospital

High Court will see report to decide whether 80-year-old Bhima Koregaon accused needs to be shifted for treatment.

2 min read
Varavara Rao, 80, is a co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. He was admitted to Nanavati Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 in July.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday, 12 November, ordered an immediate medical examination of 80-year-old poet-activist Varavara Rao by doctors from the super-speciality Nanavati Hospital.

Rao is accused of having Maoist links and being involved with Maoist plots across the country, and as a result is one of the 16 activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon matter, which is being investigated by the National Investigation Agency at present. He has been in jail since November 2018; the trial is yet to begin.

A vacation bench of Justices AK Menon and SP Tavade ordered that doctors from Nanavati Hospital who had assessed Rao during his previous stint from July-August (and filed a report on 30 July 2020), should conduct a video examination of Rao’s condition on Thursday itself, or by the morning of Friday, 13 November.

The purpose of the examination is to decide whether Rao needs to be shifted to Nanavati Hospital for treatment rather than being kept in the Taloja Jail hospital, where he is at present.

His lawyers have argued that his medical condition is serious, and there is a genuine risk to his life under the status quo, which sees him attended by two of his co-accused in the case, and him suffering from a form of dementia along with other illnesses.

In the event that the doctors are unable to assess his condition properly via video, then the authorities at Taloja Jail and the NIA are to facilitate the Nanavati Hospital doctors to conduct a physical examination of Rao as soon as possible.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, representing Rao, had argued that there was “a reasonable apprehension that he will lose his life in prison”, given the last available medical report (from Nanavati Hospital on 30 July) and comments from accused that his condition had deteriorated.

Instead of pressing for medical bail at this time, or a release from jail on humanitarian grounds (which is what the petitions before the court broadly were), Jaising asked the court to only consider the two interim reliefs being sought on behalf of Rao:

  1. To move him to Nanavati Hospital for treatment and assessment;
  2. To get him examined by independent medical experts to decide further course of action and treatment.

The judges said they would need to have the second part done to decide whether the first was needed and hence passed the order.

The report by the doctors from Nanavati Hospital on Rao’s condition is to be placed before the high court by the next hearing on 17 November at 3 pm.

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