A two-justice bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered that poet-activist Varavara Rao be transferred from Taloja prison to Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai for 15 days for medical examination.
Rao (81) has been lodged as an under-trial in the Bhima-Koregaon case at the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai.
Rao had filed a bail application and a writ petition seeking he be shifted to Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai immediately, owing to his “diminishing neurological and physical health condition”. Justices S.S. Shinde and Madhav Jamdar heard his pleas.
His advocate, Indira Jaising, was quoted by Live Law as saying, “His capability for the intake of food is compromised. His monitoring can only happen in a super specialty hospital and not in Taloja jail.” She referred to a video examination of Rao by doctors of Nanavati Hospital on November 12. She said the doctors found him to be disoriented.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the NIA, suggested that Varavara Rao be shifted to the government-run JJ Hospital. However, Justice Shinde suggested he be taken to Nanavati Hospital since he had already been treated there.
Anil Singh was quoted by Live Law as saying, “There are many prisoners not doing well. It sets a bad precedent to shift to Nanavati.”
Justice Shinde observed, “Ultimately the man is on almost death bed. He needs some treatment. Can the State say ‘no, no we will treat him in Taloja’?”
Justice Shinde was quoted by Live Law as saying, “We are only saying transfer him to Nanavati for two weeks. We will further see after two weeks.”
The High Court ordered that Rao cannot be discharged without informing the court and scheduled the matter for next hearing on December 9. The High Court stressed the government should bear the expenses of Rao’s hospital stay and said his family could visit him, subject to hospital norms.
Since his arrest in June 2018, Rao has been in and out of the government-run JJ Hospital in Mumbai. On July 16, he tested positive for coronavirus, after which he was shifted to the Nanavati Hospital. He was discharged on July 30 and sent back to the Taloja prison.
Last week, Indira Jaising had urged the High Court to direct the state government to shift Rao to Nanavati Hospital immediately in view of the apprehension that “Rao might lose his life while in prison”.
Jaising had said “Rao had dementia, had lost control of his bladder, was in diapers, and that his condition was deteriorating with each passing day”.
Jaising had alleged that the state government had been negligent in taking care of Rao in prison, “and if he died, it would be a case of custodial death”.