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Varavara Rao need not surrender before jail officials until October 28, says HC

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Poet Varavara Rao need not surrender before the Taloja Jail authorities in Navi Mumbai until October 28, the Bombay High Court said on Tuesday, PTI reported.

Rao is an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, which pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. He was among 16 people who were arrested for allegedly plotting the violence.

The court granted an interim medical bail to Rao for six months on February 22. The High Court had earlier extended his surrender date twice after the bail period ended on September 5.

At Thursday’s hearing, a bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and SV Kotwal said they will hear the 82-year-old’s plea seeking extension of the bail for another six months on October 26.

In his plea, Rao sought permission to stay in Hyderabad with his family instead of Mumbai. He said health care facilities in the city were expensive.

The High Court had granted him bail on the condition that he has to stay within the jurisdiction of the special court of the National Investigation Agency. The court had also asked the activist to mark his presence with the nearest police station through video call on messaging platform WhatsApp.

In an affidavit filed in September, the National Investigation Agency had opposed Rao’s petition. The agency claimed that his medical reports did not mention any “major ailment” which would need an extension of bail.

Meanwhile, Rao in his petition, noted that he suffers from lacunar infarcts (a neurological condition) due to arterial blockages in the brain. The plea said that the poet has other pre-existing neurological conditions as well.

The poet added that his health would certainly deteriorate and he might die if he were to be sent back to judicial custody.

On September 6, Rao’s counsel had highlighted that he took 13 medicines everyday for the neurological problems, cholesterol, blood pressure and other health conditions.

Bhima Koregaon case

The NIA has alleged that Rao and 15 others were part of a conspiracy to incite violence at the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial near Pune on January 1, 2018. One person was killed and several others were injured in the incident.

The first chargesheet was filed by the Pune Police in November 2018, which ran to over 5,000 pages. It named activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, all of whom were arrested in June 2018.

The police claimed that those arrested had “active links” with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and accused the activists of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

One of the accused, 84-year-old tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, died in custody in July. Swamy, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and also contracted the coronavirus infection while in prison, was repeatedly denied bail despite his deteriorating health condition.

Currently, 14 activists and academicians are in custody in connection with the case. They have been jailed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in the case without any reliable evidence.

A supplementary chargesheet was filed in February 2019, against human rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Ganapathy.

The accused were charged with “waging war against the nation” and spreading the ideology of the CPI (Maoist), besides creating caste conflicts and hatred in the society.

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