Sudha Bharadwaj
Human rights advocate Sudha Bharadwaj (L) after she was arrested by the Pune police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence | PTI file photo
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New Delhi: Activist Sudha Bharadwaj Thursday withdrew her petition for interim bail, filed on medical grounds, from the Supreme Court after the court suggested she seek regular bail on merits.

A bench of Justices U.U. Lalit and Ajay Rastogi told Bharadwaj’s counsel, Vrinda Grover, “You have a good case on merits. Why have you not moved for regular bail?”, prompting Grover to withdraw the plea. “Now that your Lordships’ have suggested this, we will do,” Grover told the bench.

The 58-year-old Bharadwaj, arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence of 2018, sought interim bail on medical grounds given the Covid-19 pandemic. She had approached the top court against the Bombay High Court order that didn’t give her relief.

One of Bharadwaj’s lawyers told ThePrint that the team would now approach the HC with a request to release her on regular bail.

Her plea for bail on merit was rejected by the HC last year.


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Charges not framed even after two years in jail

Bharadwaj has been lodged in Mumbai’s Byculla Women’s Jail since 2018. She had earlier filed an appeal before the Bombay High Court after the Special NIA Court rejected her bail plea.

The court had, on 29 August, dismissed the petition following repeated assurances from the state that she would be given all the medical attention required. A two-judge bench had also observed that her vitals were normal and that she was being treated for all her health problems by the Medical officer in prison.

Pressing for her interim bail in the Supreme Court, Grover noted Bharadwaj’s age and said she had been in jail for two years without a trial. “Even charges have not been framed. I am seeking your indulgence for interim bail on medical grounds,” Grover submitted, adding that there is no denial that Bharadwaj suffers from comorbidities of hypertension and diabetes — exposing her to a greater risk to contracting the coronavirus infection.

But Justice Lalit was quick to remark that she was not severely diabetic. “Yes, but there is a [Covid] problem only in the case of the severely diabetic … 114 mg is a controlled sugar level, it is actually good for a diabetic person,” he noted.

However, Grover pointed out that she has developed medical complications in custody.

“I am being treated and given medicines. But there are two diseases that I have developed while in custody. One is a heart disease, which is a ticking time bomb. It needs a cardio profile, lipid profile. The other is osteo-arthiritis and it has spread to the hip region,” Bharadwaj’s plea said.

Grover urged the bench to release her client for a check-up, underlining Bharadwaj has never abused a court order.

When asked about the nature of allegations against Bharadwaj, Grover said her client has been charged with criminal conspiracy in the Bhima Koregaon case. “It is nobody’s case that any material is recovered from her, but from someone else’s phone,” Grover submitted before the bench.

‘Seek regular bail’

When Grover said she was more concerned about the Ischemic heart disease that Bharadwaj has developed while in custody, the judges observed she should apply for regular bail.

Grover informed the bench that a bail petition on merits was earlier dismissed by the HC, against which they have not filed any appeal. She again asked the court to permit Bharadwaj to get a medical test done.

However, Justice Rastogi read out from the records to show that Bharadwaj is being treated by a visiting psychiatrist. He further pointed out that the names of the medicines being administered to her are also mentioned, that the medicines are available in jail and are being given to her at government cost. “She has not symptoms of cold, cough, fever, or breathlessness,” the judge told Grover.

On being asked what she preferred — withdrawal of the petition or dismissal — Grover opted for the former.


Also read: Madhya Pradesh HC slams political meetings ahead of bypolls as Covid cases rise


 

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