bail to ailing activist Varavara Rao in the Bhima-Koregaon case on Monday, there is a renewed hope among other accused about similar relief coming their way.
Top lawyers, some of them representing the accused in the case, said though bail is difficult to secure in Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) cases, Rao’s case, where bail was granted on health grounds, has set a precedent.
Some of the other accused in the case – including Stan Swamy, Sudha Bhardwaj, and Anand Teltumbde – are also old and ailing and could now apply for bail citing Rao’s example.
Rao and 15 others have been charged for inciting violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018 when hundreds had gathered to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. The battle was won by the British forces against the Maratha peshwa forces, but it is celebrated as a symbol of the defeat of Brahminism because the British battalion comprised mainly of mahars, considered lower caste Hindus.
I think the bail has brought relief for others too. Swamy is 83 years and suffers from Parkinson’s disease. The High Court’s concern for Rao’s health must apply in Swamy’s case too
While none of the arrested accused barring one was present in Bhima-Koregoan on January 1, 2018, some of them have been accused of delivering incendiary speeches at Elgaar Parishad in Pune on December 31, 2017 leading to the violence the next day at Bhima-Koregaon and others have been booked in a larger conspiracy to overthrow the Union government.
Rao, 85, has been in detention since August 2018. He was first placed under house detention, then moved to Yerwada jail in Pune and eventually to a jail in Taloja in Navi Mumbai. During this period, five of Rao’s bail applications were rejected.
Earlier, it was all being looked through UAPA provisions and nobody was looking into other issues. Now, that has changed. The accused who are old and ailing have a new hope
Swamy last hit headlines when he moved an application at the Special NIA Court
seeking a sipper as his health made it impossible for him to drink from the tumbler provided to him in jail. While his request was rejected initially, he was eventually provided a sipper.
Grover said a
recent report by US-based digital forensic analyst firm Arsenal Consulting debunking the electronic evidence gathered by NIA as “planted” will also come in handy.
Lawyer Susan Abraham, who is representing Prof Shoma Sen in the case, termed the High Court order landmark. “It would set a precedent because there was no right for bail under the UAPA till now. This is the reason why the activists are languishing in jail for so long. The order gives a window for others to demand bail on health grounds,” she said. Sen was arrested on June 6, 2018 from Nagpur.
It is a big relief for us. We have no idea how his health may have deteriorated in the past eight months during which we moved multiple applications on health ground
Senior Advocate Mihir Desai said that the court’s observations in the order are important. “The court does hold that Rao’s health would suffer if he continues to be in the jail. I am happy. It should help others in the case,” he said.
Rao’s lawyer R Satyanarayanan said his team will comply with the terms and conditions set in the court’s order. According to the order, Rao, who is currently being treated at Nanavati Hospital, will not be allowed to leave Mumbai. He has also been asked to refrain from making any public statements.
Rao’s daughter P Pavana said the the family is discussing whether to move him to an apartment in Mumbai. “My mother is old. So family members will have to decide about moving to Mumbai to be him,” she said.
Pavana said having been through the ordeal of not being able to be by her ailing father’s side, she hopes his bail order paves the way for similar relief for other activists. “It is a big relief for us. We have no idea how his health may have deteriorated in the past eight months during which we moved multiple applications on health ground,” she said, adding that she hasn’t yet spoken with doctors at Nanavati Hospital.