The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail on medical grounds to poet and activist P Varavara Rao in the Bhima Koregaon case.
A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit observed that the medical condition of the 82-year-old Rao, who is currently out on interim bail on health grounds, has not improved to such an extent that the relief granted earlier to him be withdrawn.
The top court noted that though the charge sheet in the case has been filed, some of the accused have not been apprehended yet and the matter has not been taken up for framing of charges against the accused who are before the court.
The bench, also comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia, observed that various applications preferred by the accused seeking discharge are still pending consideration.
“The medical condition of the appellant (Rao) has not improved to such an extent over a period of time that the facility of bail which was granted earlier be withdrawn,” the bench said.
“Considering the totality of circumstances, in our view, the appellant is entitled to the relief of bail on medical grounds,” it said.
Rao, who is a Telugu poet, had challenged the Bombay High Court’s April 13 order rejecting his plea for permanent bail on medical grounds.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.
The Pune Police had also claimed that the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) later took over the probe in the matter.
Rao was arrested on August 28, 2018 from his Hyderabad residence and is an under-trial in the case for which an FIR was lodged by the Pune Police on January 8, 2018 under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
While granting bail to Rao, the apex court said he shall not leave the area of Greater Mumbai without the express permission from the trial court.
“The appellant shall not in any way misuse his liberty, nor shall he get in touch with any of the witnesses or try to influence the course of investigation,” it said.
The bench made it clear that the benefit of bail is extended to Rao only on his medical condition and any observations made in the order shall not be taken to be a reflection on merits or rival contentions advanced by the parties.
During the arguments, senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Rao, referred to his medical condition and said even charges have not been framed in the case.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the NIA, vehemently opposed the plea and argued that materials on record shows the involvement of Rao in a deep rooted conspiracy and he is not entitled to be granted the relief of bail.
He argued that the accused is allegedly involved in serious activities which are against the nation.
The top court had earlier observed that interim protection granted to Rao would continue till further orders.
In his plea filed against the April 13 order of the high court, Rao has said that he has undergone over two years of incarceration as an under-trial.
The plea submitted that “any further incarceration would ring the death knell for him as advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination”.
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