Varavara Rao’s Continued Custody Amounts to Inhuman Treatment, Says Wife in SC Petition

New Delhi: The wife of Telugu poet and writer Varavara Rao, arrested in connection with the Elgar Parishad case, moved the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking bail for him, claiming that his continued custody amounted to cruel and inhuman treatment.

The petition, filed by Pendyala Hemalatha, urged the court that during the pendency of the petition, the 81-year-old accused be released on temporary medical bail and be allowed to travel to Hyderabad to be with his family and loved ones.

It sought the immediate release of Rao on the ground that his continued custody amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment, violating Article 21 of the Constitution (life or personal liberty) and violative of his dignity in custody.

The plea said that he has lost about 18 kg and is suffering from various health issues and is “basically bed-ridden”.

The plea said: “The health condition of the Petitioner’s husband is very feeble and he suffers from various co-morbidities. It is submitted that it is well known that COVID-19 patients do not have similar symptoms. It is further known that COVID-19 hampers all organs including neurological or/ and every patient displays different symptoms.”

The petition says that when Rao was arrested on August 28, 2018, he had no neurological problems. “It is therefore highly likely that COVID-19 and the fall that he had in St. George Hospital has led to neurological problems as reflected in the medical report filed by Nanavati Hospital dated July 30,” it adds.

The petition, filed by advocate Sunil Fernandes, said that considering the co-morbidity factors of age, persistent hyponatremia in COVID-19 case, the patient will require close monitoring.

Earlier when he was discharged, he was advised to undergo sodium test, which apparently had not been done by the jail authorities.

The petition says that after Rao was hospitalised on May 27, he was “hurriedly discharged” in June, while his bail plea on the ground of his medical problems and COVID-19 was pending. This was despite the fact that he needed constant follow ups and the move was only to “avoid judicial determination of his bail on medical grounds”, the petition says.

The petition says Rao’s health condition continues to be precarious.

Rao lacks bowel and urine control, the petition says, adding that he has a catheter urine bag and has to use diapers. He is being given swab baths by the co-accused as he is ‘basically bed-ridden’, the petition says, adding that Rao’s mental status is also not sound.

Rao was among several activists and lawyers who were arrested by the Pune Police in the Elgar Parishad case in 2018. The case has been transferred to the National Investigating Agency (NIA), which has subsequently arrested more activists and academics, with Stan Swamy the latest to be taken into custody.

With Swamy’s arrest, 16 people have been arrested in connection with the case. Those arrested earlier were Sudhir Dhawale, a writer and Mumbai-based Dalit rights activist; Mahesh Raut, a young activist from Gadchiroli who worked on displacement; Shoma Sen, who was the head of the English literature department at Nagpur University; advocates Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj; Varavara Rao; activist Vernon Gonsalves; prisoners’ rights activist Rona Wilson; Surendra Gadling, a UAPA expert and lawyer from Nagpur; Delhi University professor Hany Babu; and Kabir Kala Manch artists Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Jyoti Jagtap.

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