Poet-activist Varavara Rao, who has been in jail for over two years in the Bhima-Koregaon case, walked out of Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital late on Saturday after being granted bail for six months by the Bombay High Court on medical grounds.
Rao, 81, was undergoing treatment at the hospital where was admitted by the Maharashtra government after the high court intervened. Posting a photo, his lawyer Indira Jaisingh tweeted that the activist was “free at last”.
Rao was arrested in 2018 and has been in jail since. He contracted Covid-19 in July 2020 and has been in and out of hospital because of his health. On July 16 this year, he tested positive for coronavirus, after which he was shifted to the Nanavati hospital in the city. He was discharged from Nanavati following a final assessment report on July 30 and sent back to the Taloja prison.
In November last year, he was admitted to Nanavati Hospital again following the intervention of a bench of Justice Shinde and Justice MS Karnik.
Rao and some other Left-leaning activists were earlier arrested for alleged links with Maoists following the Elgar Parishad conclave in Maharashtra’s Pune district on December 31, 2017.
Last month, appearing for Rao, senior lawyer Jaising told the Bombay High Court that the conditions of Rao’s detention were “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” and urged it to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution to release him from prison. Rao, an octogenarian poet-activist, is an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case and is lodged in Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai as an undertrial. However, he is currently admitted to the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai.
Jaising told a bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale that Rao’s right to dignity and health were being breached due to his detention and that the court must exercise its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution to release him from prison.