Poet and Activist Varavara Rao is "almost on his deathbed", his lawyer told the Bombay High Court on July 20. Rao is an accused in the Elgar Parishad case for Bhima Koregaon violence, and has been in jail since 2018.
He recently tested positive for coronavirus last week after he was admitted to JJ Hospital in Mumbai.
"His condition is very serious," Rao's lawyer Sandeep Pasbola told the court. "He hit his head against the hospital bed while he was at the JJ Hospital and sustained severe injuries. Besides Covid-19, he suffers from several ailments, he is hallucinating and is delirious." Pasbola said.
He also urged the court that if Rao were to die, it should be in the presence of his family.
Following this, the court ordered the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is currently probing the Elgar Parishad case, and the Maharashtra government to keep it informed of Rao's health and also asked if Rao's family could be permitted to see him "from a reasonable distance".
A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and SP Tavade has asked the two entities to provide the details by July 22.
The court asked the lawyer if it would be counterproductive to move Rao from JJ Hospital to another place given his health condition.
"Also, if he has Covid-19, then how can he meet his family?" the court asked. Responding to which, Pasbola said that the family could follow safety measures and see him from a distance.
Advocate Deepak Thakare, representing the Maharashtra government, said that the state could arrange for video conferencing facilities for Rao's family.
However, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the NIA, stated that coronavirus patients cannot be permitted to meet anybody, adding that Rao had been admitted to one of the best hospitals in the country.
"We are providing the best treatment to him, all his medical needs are being attended to and we are following ICMR [Indian Council of Medical Research] guidelines in treating him for Covid-19," Singh said.
A group of 145 international scholars on July 19 had issued a statement demanding the immediate release of Rao and the other activists in the Bhima Koregaon and Elgar Parishad cases.
The signatories referred to the poet-activist as a "long-time speaker of truth to power", and stated that the government has failed to bring the charges to court and start the trial, over the past two years.
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