After months of pleading and countless petitions, the Bombay High Court has asked Taloja jail officials to shift activist-poet Dr Varavara Rao to Nanavati hospital for further treatment. The Division Bench comprising of Justices SS Shinde and Madhav Jamdar was hearing an interim plea filed by Rao’s wife, Hemalatha Rao. Last week, the Court had ordered a medical check-up for the poet which senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Hemalatha, had described it as an “eyewash”
While public prosecutor Deepak Thakare claimed that Rao had been getting proper treatment in the jail, Jaising replied that his health deteriorated steadily since May, and when he was admitted to Nanavati, “he was found in a pool of his urine”. Moreover, on July 16, he was reported Covid positive and was transferred to St Georges, which is a Covid hospital. At the hospital, after suffering a head injury, a doctor examined him and reported that the 80-year-old might have dementia, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
Thakare argued that while he might be unwell, the jail hospital had enough facilities to treat him. Even the Court cited the example of how a few judges had visited the jail and reported “excellent features”. However, after hearing further arguments and addressing Rao’s deteriorating neurological health, the Court asked whether the jail had facilities for such a situation. Thakare replied that the jail had neither a neurologist nor a neurosurgeon for such a situation.
The Court had to consider several aspects of the matter. One was Rao’s deteriorating health in regards to his neurological state. The second was the post-Covid situation, especially because he is an octogenarian. The third was that the jail did not have sufficient facilities to handle Rao’s situation. Moreover, Jaising submitted that previous medical check-ups and tests were either rushed or incomplete to a point that none of them could effectively claim to have been enough for a man at “death’s door”. After a transfer seemed inevitable, the Court asked Thakare to see if the Maharashtra government would agree to it. The public prosecutor also urged the Court to deem it as a special case and not as a precedent, since the latter would be problematic.
In the end, the Court ordered that Rao be transferred to Nanavati hospital immediately for treatment and testing as a special case. The state will bear the burden of the costs, and Rao cannot be discharged without informing the Court. Families and relatives will be allowed to see Rao, following protocols. The physical hearing today was moved from yesterday when technical difficulties affected the virtual hearing on Tuesday.