12 Jul 2022

Bhima Koregaon case: Supreme Court extends Varavara Rao's interim bail

The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended the interim bail granted to activist and poet Dr. P. Varavar Rao, an accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case.
Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia posted Mr Rao's permanent bail application on health grounds for hearing on July 19.

Appearing for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought an adjournment till tomorrow or the day after as he has to appear on fresh matters. Mehta said Rao's interim surrender protection, granted by the Bombay High Court and ending today, may be extended.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, who represented Mr. Rao, did not object to the attorney general's request.

"At the joint request of the advocates appearing for the parties, list the matter on July 19. The interim protection enjoyed by the petitioner will be of benefit to him till further orders," the court said.

Yesterday (Monday), the bench posted the matter for hearing on Tuesday after the Solicitor General sought an adjournment for some documents to be recorded.

Mr. Rao challenged the Bombay High Court's April 13 judgment that rejected his permanent bail plea. However, the High Court extended the period for Mr. Rao to surrender before the Taloja jail authorities by three months to allow him to undergo cataract surgery.

It also rejected Mr. Rao's request to stay in Hyderabad instead of Mumbai while he was out on bail.

In his appeal, Mr. Rao said that he had undergone more than two years of imprisonment as part of the trial and was currently granted bail by the Bombay High Court on medical grounds.

"Any further incarceration would ring his death knell as advancing age and declining health are a deadly combination," the plea reads.

Mr. Rao challenged the high court's order as he was not granted bail extension, despite his advanced age and precarious and deteriorating health, and his prayer for transfer to Hyderabad was denied.

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

Mr. Rao, who was initially placed under house arrest on a Supreme Court order, was eventually taken into police custody on 17 November 2018 and later transferred to Taloja Jail.

In his appeal, Mr. Rao said the trial would take at least ten years in any event. In fact, one of the defendants in the case, Father Stan Swamy, who suffered from similar ailments to the petitioner, died before the trial began, his appeal added.

In February 2021, the Bombay High Court granted him interim bail on health grounds and he was released from jail on 6 March 2021.

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