Bhima Koregaon: NIA opposes Varavara Rao's bail plea, says he is taking "undue benefit" of COVID-19 pandemic and old age
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Bhima Koregaon: NIA opposes Varavara Rao's bail plea, says he is taking "undue benefit" of COVID-19 pandemic and old age

The affidavit filed by the NIA vehemently opposing Varavara Rao’s interim bail plea was filed in the High Court on July 16. Rao had undergone a swab test for COVID-19 on July 14 and was found positive on July 16.

Shruti Mahajan

The National Investigating Agency (NIA) has opposed the interim bail plea filed by Varavara Rao in the Bombay High Court, claiming that the writer and poet is seeking to take undue advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to get bail.

This affidavit by the NIA vehemently opposing Rao’s interim bail plea was filed in the High Court on July 16. Rao had undergone a swab test for COVID-19 on July 14 and was found positive on July 16.

Rao, who is one of the several accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, had moved the Bombay High Court against the decision of the Special NIA Court in Mumbai rejecting his interim bail plea. Rao cited his old age and susceptibility to contracting COVID-19 as grounds for seeking bail.

In an affidavit opposing Rao’s bail plea, NIA has claimed that the medical grounds raised by the poet are without merit, considering that appropriate medical attention was being afforded to him in prison, a point that was also noted by the Special NIA Court in its order.

The writer-poet is now admitted in Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital, which is one of the COVID-19 specialty hospitals.

Rao’s family has also sought permission from the Court to be allowed to visit him in hospital from a reasonable distance, apprehending that the poet may be on the verge of death, given his present condition.

However, the NIA affidavit filed before the High Court states,

“The appellant accused Varavara Rao under the garb of the current situation on the account of global pandemic COVID-19 and his old age, is trying to take undue benefit of the aforesaid situation in seeking bail on the grounds mentioned in his application."
Affidavit filed in Bombay High Court

The charges against Rao and his co-accused under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other statutes are of grave nature, the NIA has contended. These provisions prescribe punishment for over a period of seven years, and as such, Rao or any of his co-accused are not eligible to interim bail, the agency has contended.

The same rationale has been used by the NIA while opposing the bail plea filed by Sudha Bharadwaj, another accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.

To oppose the medical grounds taken by Rao, the NIA has cited incidents that occurred in the months of May and June, when Rao, on complaining of giddiness, was taken to the JJ Hospital by the prison authorities. Citing this as an example, the agency has submitted that full medical assistance was being provided to octogenarian Rao.

The NIA further states in its affidavit that a chargesheet has already been framed against Rao, and that the case is at the stage of framing of charges. However, on account of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, the process of framing of charges has been deferred, the affidavit adds.

The evidence against Rao, the NIA says, is cogent and proves his involvement with banned organizations. Moreover, it is claimed that he was involved in “in the process of creating large scale violence, destruction of property resulting into chaos in the society and thereby destabilizing the government/s established by law to fulfil the objectives of Communist Party of India [Maoist].”

On these grounds, among others, the NIA has claimed that Rao is not entitled to interim bail.

The Bombay High Court is set to hear Rao’s plea for interim bail on Thursday.

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