Varavara Rao, the 81-year-old poet-activist who has been in jail for over two years in the Koregaon-Bhima case, was granted bail for six months by the Bombay High Court today on medical grounds.
He is currently undergoing treatment at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital where was admitted by the Maharashtra government following the high court’s intervention.
Mr Rao has been asked by the court to remain in Mumbai and be available for investigation whenever needed. He will also have to submit his passport before the NIA (National Investigation Agency) court, and he has been forbidden to establish any contact with his co-accused in the case. He has to submit a personal bond of Rs. 50,000 and two sureties of the same amount.
He has been in custody since August 28, 2018, awaiting trial in the case.
The high court today said if it did not grant Mr Rao medical bail, it would be abdicating its duty to protect the principles of human rights, and a citizen’s fundamental rights to life and health.
“We are relieved. It is a big relief to us. Because for the last 2.5 years, no one was getting even a small relief in this case. This is the first relief in the BK (Bhima-Koregaon) case. We are very happy but the condition is there that we have to be in Mumbai. We have to think about that and plan. We will talk to the lawyers,” Mr Rao’s daughter Pavani said.
Earlier this month, his lawyer, Indira Jaising highlighted his poor health condition before the Bombay High Court, saying that of the 365 days since last February, he spent 149 days in hospital. She urged the court to let Mr Rao out of Maharashtra’s Taloja prison where he is lodged as an undertrial, and to permit him to go home and stay with his family in Hyderabad.
The case, being probed by the National Investigation Agency, involves allegations of provocative speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed led to violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial.
Varavara Rao and nine other activists were accused of plotting the violence with Maoists. Mr Rao, who headed “Veerasam”, an association of revolutionary writers, has strongly denied the charge.