The Bombay High Court on Thursdaydirected a panel of doctors from a private hospital here toconduct medical examination of the jailed poet-activistVaravara Rao through video link.
81-year-old Rao, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, is lodged as an under-trial in the Talojaprison in neighbouring Navi Mumbai.
A division bench led by Justice A K Menon was hearinga petition filed by Raos wife Hemlata, seeking that he beshifted to the private Nanavati Hospital for better treatment,an independent medical board be set up to assess hishealth, and he be released on bail.
Raos lawyer Indira Jaising claimed that his healthwas “fast deteriorating”, and there was a legitimateapprehension that he might die in prison.
Rao suffers from dementia, is confined to bed inthe prison hospital since August and needs to wear diapers,the lawyer said.
If Rao passed away in prison, it would be a case of”custodial death”, advocate Jaising said, adding that hisdetention violated his right to life under Article 21.
The high court initially suggested that a team ofdoctors from the Nanavati hospital visit Rao in prison.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which isprobing the case, opposed the suggestion. It also opposedJaisings request that Rao be shifted to the Nanavatihospital.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, the NIAslawyer, said prisoners can not choose their doctors, andallowing it would set a wrong precedent.
“Tomorrow, every prisoner willsay shift me toNanavati. Besides, we should not underestimate the credibilityof our government doctors and hospitals,” Singh said.
The court, however, said there would not be any harmif a video consultation was allowed.
“The main concern is to assess the present medicalcondition of the accused. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction ofshifting him out of prison without knowing his healthcondition, let the Nanavati doctors assess,”the judges said.
The HC directed doctors at the Nanavati hospital tosubmit their video assessment report as soon as it was ready,and submit a physical assessment report, if such examinationwas felt to be necessary, by November 16.
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