Bombay HC seeks responses from state govt, NIA whether Varavara Rao’s family can see him

The Bombay High Court on Monday sought the responses from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Maharashtra government on whether the family members of poet and activist Varavara Rao, an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, can see or visit him from a reasonable distance in the wake of the 80-year-old testing positive for Covid-19 and his critical condition.

Rao was shifted to Mumbai’s Nanavati hospital on Sunday for treatment of neurological and urological ailments. He was admitted at the state-run St George Hospital in south Mumbai last Thursday after testing positive. During treatment, doctors found his condition to be stable but observed he had neurological problems.

Rao’s family, including his wife Hemalatha and three daughters, issued a statement to the media on Monday, urging the state government to allow a family member to assist or attend to him in view of his health condition. They also sought that the hospital or prison authorities should provide daily official updates of his health status along with nature of treatment being provided to him.

Justice S S Shinde and Justice S P Tavade was hearing a writ petition filed by Rao that stated that jail authorities did not make him undergo medical check-ups, as suggested by state-run JJ hospital in Mumbai, and sought action against the errant officials. The HC also heard Rao’s appeal against the special NIA court rejecting his interim bail plea.

On Monday, advocate Sudeep Pasbola referred to news reports and said that Rao’s condition was extremely critical. He added that Rao’s wife had filed an affidavit before the HC last week requesting permission to see him. If granted bail, his family members can take care of him, he said.

“Rao’s condition is very serious. He is almost on his deathbed and if he was to die, it would be in the presence of his family. Rao hit his head against the hospital bed, while he was admitted at J J hospital and sustained several injuries. He also suffers from other ailments and is hallucinating and is delirious,” Pasbola submitted.

However, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for NIA, said that Rao has been shifted to Nanavati hospital, which has the best possible treatment facilities in Mumbai, and proper care was being taken as per Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines.

The HC observed that Rao was shifted to Nanavati hospital as “prima facie” he was facing severe health issues. While it did not doubt the bonafide of NIA’s arguments, it directed the authorities to apprise it on Rao’s medical report “keeping in view his existing conditions”.

Singh submitted that as per existing protocols, no visits to Covid-19 patients were allowed. However, he would take instructions if the same could be facilitated.

Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare, appearing for the state, said that a possibility of visit through video conference can be considered.

The court said that it would not pass orders on merits of the bail plea at this stage and sought responses from the authorities. It will hear the plea next on Thursday.

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