Bombay HC allows Varavara Rao to talk to family via video call, seeks Sudha Bhardwaj’s fresh medical report

Another bench of the High Court had on July 28 directed the hospital to arrange a video conference between Rao and his family as per hospital protocols, and a call had been made on July 31

Poet Varvara Rao (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
Poet Varvara Rao (Photo courtesy: Twitter)

NH Web Desk

The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the Nanavati hospital authorities to again allow Varavara Rao's family to interact with him via video call after the family expressed anxiety for not receiving any updates on his health by hospital authorities, legal news website has reported.

Division bench of Justice AA Sayed and Justice Abhay Ahuja heard the petition and appeal filed on behalf of the 81-year-old Rao who is one of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. The same bench also heard an appeal filed by another accused in the case Sudha Bharadwaj.

Varavara Rao's lawyer Advocate Sudeep Pasbola submitted that the family spoke to him last on July 31. He submitted, "We still do not have any information or update about his health after that. So we are seeking that a copy of the medical report be given and matter may be adjourned to later in the week to be argued on merits."

Additional Solicitor General of India Anil Singh appeared on behalf National Investigation Agency opposed Rao's petition and told the Court when he tested positive, he was admitted to JJ hospital and on the request of Rao's family, he was shifted to Nanavati Hospital which is the best hospital and now he is being treated there, Singh said.

ASG Singh also argued that jail authorities are following all the guidelines and will take good care of Rao. There can be no complaints from his family. Nothing survives in the matter, ASG Singh contended.

After perusing through Rao's medical report, Justice Sayed said, “What is his present condition, the report states that he tested positive but is he in a regular ward or ICU?”

"That is the issue Your Lordship, we do not know, the family has not received any response from the hospital authorities," advocate Pasbola interjected.

The court referred to the July 28 order passed by another bench in the same matter directing Nanavati Hospital to submit a report on Varavara Rao's health and the line of treatment being given to the Telugu poet. In the same order, court had directed the hospital to arrange a video conference between Rao and his family as per hospital protocols, as a result of which a call was arranged on July 31.

Thus, Justice Sayed considered Rao's medical condition, and asked the hospital authorities to submit a health report and allow the family to interact with Varavara Rao via video conferencing. The matter was adjourned for two weeks.

Thereafter, Sudha Bharadwaj's appeal against rejection of bail came up before the same bench. Her counsel Ragini Ahuja submitted that the 58-year-old activist was a professor of law at National Law University, Delhi and has been in custody for almost two years.

The bench referred to the recent judgement of the High Court wherein a batch of PILs raising concerns regarding lack of facilities for proper

treatment of prisoners lodged in various correctional homes during the current pandemic of COVID-19 after concluding that most of the suggestions proposed by the petitioners have been accepted by the State. “Keeping this judgement in mind what contentions do you have?” Justice Sayed asked.

To this, advocate Ahuja submitted that primarily there are three important contentions. Firstly, she suffers from two severe comorbidities. Secondly, Byculla jail where she is lodged, is already overcrowded and thirdly the purpose of high court and Supreme Court judgments was regarding decongestion of prisons. However, when the Byculla prison is already overcrowded, the possibility of social distancing etc due to decongestion is not possible there, Ahuja contended.

Last month, a medical report was submitted before the High Court by the jail authorities at Byculla District Jail. It was stated in the report that Bharadwaj is suffering from ischemic disease which leads to reduced supply of blood in the body.

The bench noted that a copy of NIA's reply in the case has not been annexed to the compilation of documents presented before them and asked ASG Anil Singh to supply a copy of the same and directed PP Deepak Thakare to submit the latest medical report on Sudha Bharadwaj.

Although the bench enquired from PP Deepak Thakare whether the jail superintendent at Byculla jail can file an affidavit listing out steps being taken to take precautions to contain spread of COVID-19 in the jail and protect inmates with comorbidities, PP Thakare said there were audio

issues. Then he submitted that it is better if he submits a chart in the matter but did not explain any further.

The court adjourned the matter for hearing next week.

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