Poet-activist Varavara Rao was granted bail on medical grounds today in connection with a 2016 case of arson at an iron ore mine in Maharashtra.
The 82-year-old, currently at Mumbai’s Nanavati hospital, was granted bail for six months yesterday by the High Court in the Bhima-Koregaon case on similar grounds.
The activist suffers from many ailments including symptoms of dementia, his lawyers say.
Mr Rao’s lawyers Firdos Mirza and Nihalsingh Rathod said he had sought bail on health grounds and not on merits of the case involving arson at the Surjagarh iron mine. They also referred to yesterday’s order.
Today’s case involves an incident on December 25, 2016, when Maoists set fire to some 80 vehicles transporting iron ore from the Surjagarh mines in Gadchiroli.
Mr Rao was arrested in January 2018 over what is known as the “Elgar Parishad” case and charged under a stringent anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which allows detention without trial for years. His family pleaded that his continued incarceration in ill-health amounts to violation of Article 21 of the constitution that guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. He also contracted Covid in jail.
The case, being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), involves allegations of provocative speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed led to violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial.
Varavara Rao and nine other activists were accused of plotting the violence with Maoists. Mr Rao, who headed “Veerasam”, an association of revolutionary writers, has strongly denied the charge.
The Bombay High Court, while granting him bail, applied several conditions. He cannot leave Mumbai or contact any co-accused in the case. Mr Rao has to surrender when the six month bail period ends, or seek an extension before court.
Last year, senior lawyer Indira Jaising had argued that Mr Rao, in jail for two years, was bed-ridden and his health was fast deteriorating.