“His continuing custody is a punishment not permissible in law”
Wife of poet and activist Dr. Varavara Rao approached the Supreme Court on Thursday for his immediate release from jail, saying his continued custody as an undertrial amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment and is violative of his dignity.
Pendyala Hemalatha squarely blamed the Maharashtra government and the National Investigation Agency for the deterioration in her husband’s health. She urged the apex court to grant him bail.
“The respondents [Maharashtra and the NIA] are solely responsible for the deterioration in Rao’s health by denying timely and proper medical treatment… The treatment meted out to Rao amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It is a form of punishment not permitted by law. He is entitled to immediately be set at liberty,” Ms. Hemalatha, represented by advocate Sunil Fernandes, submitted.
Mr. Rao, 79, was arrested in August 2018 in the Elgar Parishad case. He has been accused of offences under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the National Investigation Act. The chargesheet runs into 10,000 pages.
Ms. Hemalatha said her husband needed critical medical care. He had become very feeble in custody. He suffered from neurological problems and the after-effects of COVID-19 infection which he got while in custody.
“He is not in a position to stand trial. He needs critical medical care… No useful purpose is being served by his continued incarceration, except to torture him beyond human endurance,” she pleaded with the court.
He had also suffered a fall at the St George Hospital and injured his head.
“It is therefore highly likely that COVID-19 and the fall that he had in St George Hospital has led to neurological problems as is reflected in the medical report filed by Nanavati Hospital on July 30,” she submitted.
On August 17, the Bombay High Court had said that “considering the comorbid factors of age, persistent hyponatremia in COVID-19 case, the patient will require close monitoring.”
A petition seeking his medical reports from the Jailor, Taloja Jail, is still pending.
She recounted how Mr. Rao was hurriedly discharged from the hospital on June 1 just to “avoid judicial determination of his bail on medical grounds.”
“Chances of commencement of trial is bleak and charges are yet to be framed… There is no bar to granting bail on health grounds under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or the National Investigation Act,” Ms. Hemalatha pleaded.
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