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SC has issued notice to NIA on seeking bail to P Varavara Rao

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Supreme Court
Image: Agencies

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the National Investigation Authority (NIA) on a plea filed by activist and poet Dr P Varavara Rao, an accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case, seeking bail on medical grounds.

A bench of Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia said that its order of extending the interim bail granted on medical grounds Rao will continue.

The apex court posted the matter for final hearing now on August 10. “Interim protection granted earlier on medical grounds extended till further orders,” said the bench in its order. Earlier, the top court had extended Rao’s interim bail till further orders.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for NIA while senior advocate Anand Grover represented Rao. Rao has challenged an April 13 judgment of the Bombay High Court which had rejected his plea for permanent bail.

The High Court, however, had extended the time for Rao to surrender before the Taloja prison authorities by three months, to enable him to undergo cataract surgery. It had also rejected Rao’s application to stay in Hyderabad instead of Mumbai, while out on bail.

In his appeal, Rao has said that he has undergone over two years of incarceration as an under-trial, and is currently enlarged on bail on medical grounds by the Bombay High Court. “Any further incarceration would ring the death knell for him as advancing age and deteriorating health are a fatal combination,” stated the plea.

Rao has challenged the High Court order as he was not granted an extension of bail, despite his advanced age and precarious and deteriorating health condition, and has been denied the prayer to shift to Hyderabad.

He was arrested on August 28, 2018, from his home in Hyderabad and is an under-trial in the Bhima Koregaon case for which FIR was lodged by the Pune Police at Vishrambagh Police Station on January 8, 2018, under various sections of IPC and several provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Rao, who was initially put under house arrest pursuant to the order of the top court, was ultimately taken into police custody on November 17, 2018 and later shifted to Taloja Jail.

Rao in his appeal said that in the totality of circumstances, the trial will take not less than ten years. In fact, one of the accused in the case, Father Stan Swamy, who was suffering from similar ailments as the Petitioner, passed away even before the trial could start, his appeal added. In February 2021, the Bombay High Court granted him interim bail on medical grounds and he was released from jail on March 6, 2021.

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