After spending two years in imprisonment, 81-year-old poet and activist Varavara Rao has been granted release from jail after he was discharged from the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai yesterday. The Mumbai HC had granted him a six-month bail on February 22, and since then he had been admitted to the hospital undergoing treatment. He had been in jail for more than two years, awaiting his trial in the Bhim Koregaon case.
Following his release, Rao’s advocate Indira Jaising posted a picture of him, and said, “Free at last! Varavara Rao out of Nanavati hospital 11.45 pm, 6th March 2021 (sic)”.
Moreover, she shared another picture today, adding, “Varavara Rao, no anger no bitterness no hatred on his face, the moment of his release on medical bail from Nanavati Hospital (sic)”
The Mumbai HC has asked Rao to remain in Mumbai and be available for investigation whenever the officials need him. Additionally, he will have to submit his passport before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) court, and he has been forbidden from establishing any contact with his co-accused in the case. He will have to present a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and two sureties of the same amount.
The Bombay HC bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale issued an order in February that Rao must be discharged from the hospital depending on his health condition and be released on bail after discharge. The HC said that if it did not grant Rao medical bail, it would be abdicating its duty to protect the principles of human rights and a citizen's fundamental rights to life and health.
Rao has been in custody since August 28, 2018, and has been awaiting trial ever since. On January 1, 2018, violence broke out in Bhima Koregaon village in Pune, which left one dead, and several injured including 10 police officers. The violence occurred after some people, reportedly with saffron flags, pelted stones at cars heading for the commemoration of the 200 years of Bhima-Koregaon war on January 1. Rao, along with Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, and Stan Swamy, was taken into custody alleging their role in the violence.
Earlier in February, a US digital forensics firm has said that the laptop belonging to Wilson was compromised for over 22 months. Following this revelation, Wilson moved the Bombay High Court seeking the quashing of criminal proceedings against him.
US-based Washington Post first reported the findings of the Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm – Arsenal Consulting. In their report, Arsenal Consulting said that hackers “planted” 10 incriminating letters in Wilson’s laptop using malware or malicious software.
Wilson was not the only victim. According to the report, a series of suspicious emails were sent from the account of Varavara Rao, who is co-accused in the case. The firm said that someone used Rao’s account to send a phishing mail to Wilson.