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In their plea, both Gonsalves and Teltumbde have submitted that they have been physically proximate to Varavara Rao, another accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, shortly before he tested positive for COVID-19 on July 16.
Vernon Gonasalves and Anand Teltumbde, two of the actvists accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, have moved an application before the Bombay High Court for bail on humanitarian grounds, on concerns that they are at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
In their application, both Gonsalves and Teltumbde have submitted that they have been physically proximate to Varavara Rao, another accused in the same case, who had tested positive for the virus on July 16.
Gonsalves and Teltumbde are presently lodged at Taloja Central Prison.
It is submitted that before Rao was found to have been infected by COVID-19, Gonsalves had been assigned as his aid to help him with his day to day activities for three to four weeks. Teltumbde has submitted that he had been lodged in the same Jail Hospital as Rao until July 13.
As such, it is highlighted that both Gonsalves and Teltumbde face an imminent threat of contracting COVID-19. The plea further emphasises that both the petitioners are senior citizens with underlying health ailments.
In this regard, it is informed the Gonsalves, aged 61, suffers from hypertension, blood pressure, and bleeding piles - conditions for which he has been on medication, the plea states.
Teltumbde, aged 68, is stated to be suffering from a host of chronic health problems including chronic bronchitis asthma, chronic cervical spondylitis, supraspinatus tendinosis and prostatomegaly. On account of his asthma issues, Teltumbde has been using inhaler pump and oral drugs, the plea states.
The petitioners further submit that they have both cooperated with the probe into the case so far, which has been pending for two years now. At the outset, they assert that they have been falsely implicated in the case.
In view of these submissions, the petitioners have now urged the Bombay High Court to direct their release on humanitarian grounds, given that their continued imprisonment endangers their life on account of the COVID-19 risk.
Further, the petitioners have also made prayers for the conduct of a COVID-19 test, and so that they are kept in isolation where physical distancing is possible.
On July 16, writer-poet and activist Varavara Rao was found positive for COVID-19. This followed days after he had moved the Bombay High Court seeking an immediate medical check-up citing deteriorating health. The octogenarian’s ill-health came to light after his family held a press conference calling for his release on medical grounds.
Rao, Gonsalves and Teltumbde are among several activists, academicians, lawyers, professors and writers whose residences were raided by the Pune Police in 2018.
They have been charged under provisions of the UAPA allegedly for being involved in a criminal conspiracy which led to caste-based clashes and riots in Pune on January 1, 2018, after the 200th commemoration function of the battle of Bhima Koregaon. The allegations say that this celebration was backed and organized by banned organizations.
Earlier this year, the probe in the case was transferred from the Pune Police to the National Investigating Agency (NIA). This transfer of probe was recently challenged before the Bombay High Court by two of the accused in the case, Sudhir Dhawale and Surendra Gadling.