The Bombay High Court on Wednesday rejected poet-activist Varavara Rao’s plea seeking permanent medical bail in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case. A bench of Justices S B Shukre and G A Sanap, however, extended the time for the 83-year-old activist to surrender before the Taloja prison authorities by three months, to enable him to undergo a cataract surgery.
The bench dismissed Rao’s application seeking that he be permitted to stay in Hyderabad instead of Mumbai, while out on bail. The HC also said it had found substance in several claims made by Rao’s counsel Anand Grover on the lack of medical facilities in the Taloja prison, located in neighbouring Navi Mumbai, and poor hygiene conditions there.
The court, therefore, directed Maharashtra Inspector General of prisons to submit a “candid" report on the state of such facilities at the “Taloja prison in particular," and also in all prisons across the state. The HC directed the IG to submit the report to the court by April 30 this year.
“The IG prisons must ensure that henceforth, there remain no grounds for inmates to raise grievances on inadequate health facilities in prisons across the state," the court said. It also directed the special NIA court to expedite the trial in the Elgar Parishad case, and to conduct the trial proceedings on a day-to-day basis.
Rao, who has been out of prison on temporary medical bail since February last year, had filed three pleas. He had sought that his medical bail be extended by another six months, an application seeking modification of his temporary medical bail conditions – he sought that while out on bail, he be permitted to stay in his home town Hyderabad in Telangana, and a plea that he be granted permanent bail on health grounds till the conclusion of the case trial. His counsel had told the HC that Rao, who has early signs of Parkinson’s disease, was living in Mumbai’s Bandra area in a conference facility rented out to him by some Christain missionaries.
The NIA’s counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, had opposed all of Rao’s prayers and urged the HC to send him back to prison. Singh had argued that hundreds of other inmates, who were senior citizens and suffered from health ailments, continued to remain in prison and were provided with medical care in prison hospital.
The case pertains to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 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 the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.
Later, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the probe into the case.