‘He’s almost on deathbed’, says Bombay HC; orders shifting of Varavara Rao from prison to Nanavati Hospital
The court ruled that the family members of Rao should be allowed to meet him at the hospital. It will next consider the matter on December 3
NH Web Desk
Taking note of the critical medical condition of the 81-year old undertrial Varavara Rao, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed that he be shifted to Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital from Taloja Jail, for 15 days for a thorough check-up, legal news website LiveLaw.in has reported.
A Division Bench comprising of Justices SS Shinde and Madhav Jamdar said, "Ultimately the man is on almost death bed. He needs some treatment. Can the State say no no we will treat him in Taloja? We are only saying transfer him to Nanavati for two weeks. We will further see after two weeks."
The bench further directed that he should not be discharged from the hospital without informing the Court. The medical reports have to be submitted before the Court. Also, the family members of Rao should be allowed to meet him at the hospital. The court will next consider the matter on December 3.
The bench observed that it agreed with the submission of Senior Advocate Indira Jaising (who appeared for the petitioner) that proper medical examination may not possible over video call 15 minutes and that detailed physical examination under the guidance of specialists was necessary.
The Public Prosecutor, Deepak Thakare, informed the bench after taking instructions from the government that the State of Maharashtra has no objection to shifting him to Nanavati hospital.
But the prosecutor submitted that the case should be treated as a special case and not as a precedent.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the National Investigation Agency(NIA), objected to shifting to Nanavati Hospital and submitted that JJ Hospital(Government Hospital) has sufficient facilities.
On Wednesday, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising continued her submissions for the petitioner from yesterday.
She submitted that there was a "reasonable apprehension" that Varavara Rao may die in jail and will not stand trial in the Bhima Koregoan case. Referring to his medical reports, Jaising submitted that his medical condition was highly vulnerable and that the facilities in Taloja Jail hospital were not sufficient to treat his conditions.
"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 submitted.
The Court was hearing two cases - the bail application filed by Rao on medical grounds and the writ petition filed by his wife Hemalata saying that his incarceration was a violation of his right to health and life.
Yesterday, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising had informed the Court that the medical report prepared by the doctors of Nanavati hospital after examining Rao through video was a 'complete eyewash' and despite his deteriorating condition due to neurological problems and urinary infection coupled with dementia, he was not examined by experts.
Today, during physical hearing of the matter, Jaising submitted that Taloja jail hospital is not equipped to do these tests and urged the bench to immediately shift him to Nanavati hospital. She argued that Courts have held that when it comes to medical bail, provisions of CrPC have to be followed over UAPA.
"The tests conducted at Taloja jail hospital were conducted by a private agency in Panvel. How can he be monitored in a hospital like that where there are no laboratories? There is a reasonable apprehension that he (Varavara Rao) will die in custody," Jaising said.
She added, "He (Varavara Rao) is completely bed-ridden, in diapers, no medical attendant and has a catheter. Catheter was not changed for 3 months, as there was no one to change it. Who will take responsibility if he dies? He has had a heart attack in Nanavati Hospital. If anything happens to him, itt will be nothing short of a "custodial death"."
She informed the Court that presently, Rao is being looked after by his co-accused Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira who are not medically trained, indicating that the Taloja jail hospital is incapable of taking care of him.
Elaborating on Rao's critical medical condition, Jaising told the Court that as per the report prepared by the Nanavati Hospital, Varavara Rao is disoriented. However, he was examined only for 15 minutes through video conferencing. She said, "His capability for the intake of food is compromised. His monitoring can only happen in a super specialty hospital and not in Taloja jail."
The bench also agreed that proper medical examination is not possible over a 15 minute video call.
Jaising further pointed out that no medical report of Varavara Rao is available after 30.07.2020 and whereas he was discharged from hospital in August, there is no discharge report.
"Till today Nanavati discharge report is not made available to the family. Only those reports will tell us what action has been taken or not taken. Nanavati Hospital discharge report, JJ hospital and St George Hospital discharge reports are not available," she said.
Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare, appearing for the State, had suggested that Varavara Rao will be shifted to the JJ Hospital, which is a govt hospital, and all tests could be conducted there. However, Jaising vehemently opposed this suggestion and informed the Court that when Rao was admitted at JJ hospital in July, he sustained head injuries.
"I am alleging negligence on the part of the State. If the State is unable to look after him, he needs to be shifted to Nanavati Hospital," she argued.
Earlier also Jaising had argued that in July, when Rao's family came to know about his being in JJ Hospital and visited him, they found him in a pitiable condition in a pool of urine without a nurse or an attendant.
The Bench however observed that the JJ Hospital is already burdened and the Court did not want to add to its pressure. It further stated that even if Rao is shifted to Nanavati Hospital, he will continue to be in NIA custody.
"Doctors working in government hospitals are working very hard. Sometimes they are working for more than 8 hours. They are not able to cope up with the number of patients," Justice Shinde said.
Since Varavara Rao has already suffered from COVID-19, Jaising insisted that post Covid complications can result in multiple organ failure especially for older people.
Jaising had also argued that the NIA Court did not follow the COVID19 guidelines to release prisoners on interim bail when a second bail application was filed on behalf of Varavara Rao based on the fresh guidelines issued for prisoners over 65 yrs of age.
Rao has been under custody since August 2018, facing charges under the UAPA, for alleged links with Maoists in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Advocate Anand Grover, (appearing with Jaising) submitted that it will take at least a year to frame charges in this case as it is based on computer evidence and clone copies have not yet been provided. He therefore seconded the prayer for immediate hospitalization of Varavara Rao.
Earlier, Rao's wife had approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 seeking his release. On October 29, the Supreme Court expressed concern over the fact that the Bombay High Court has not listed Rao's bail application since September 17. The Supreme Court directed the High Court to consider the bail application at the earliest and suggested the petitioner move the HC.