The family of jailed Telugu poet and literary critic Varavara Rao, who recently tested positive for Covid-19 and is currently undergoing treatment at Nanavati Hospital, have written to the National Human Rights Commission seeking their urgent intervention and directions to hospital and jail authorities to provide regular official health updates to them.
Rao's wife and his three daughters have claimed that they are denied information about his condition or his treatment at Nanavati Hospital. The letter states-
"From the time he was shifted out of Taloja Jail to St George's hospital to Nanavati hospital, the only official information provided to the family was that he had tested positive for the COVID-19. Denial of any information on Mr. Rao's health is a direct violation of NHRC's order dated July 13, 2020, whereby it had specifically directed the prison authorities to provide all the necessary medical care and assistance to Shri Rao with intimation to his family members. Completely disregarding this NHRC directive, the family was not informed, by either hospital or prison authorities, about a head injury discovered on him upon arrival at the Nanavati hospital."
The family contended that they learnt about the head injury that the octogenarian suffered only from friends in media and civil society. Moreover, no official updates are received from the hospital or the prison authorities and the family's consent isn't taken for any of the critical treatment that may be required to administer him-
"His health becoming the subject of public speculation with no official or transparent information from the hospital authorities is causing extreme anxiety to the entire family."
When Live Law contacted the Nanavati Hospital authorities, they refused to share any information about Rao's health and said that such information is only being provided to jail authorities. But when the Taloja jail authorities were contacted they simply said- "if there is any update we are informed but when there is no update, it means he (Rao) is fine."
The family also thanked the Commission for its July 17 order asking the state to provide the best possible treatment for Rao. The letter also states-
We believe that the health updates of a person in judicial custody must be shared with his family. Denial of regular health updates to the family of Mr. Rao is not only unconstitutional but it is a cruel and an inhuman act. It is the family's right to get routine updates about the medical status of a patient, any treatment that he is undergoing and the risks involved regarding the same. Keeping us in the dark about Mr. Rao's medical status is a flagrant violation of the NHRC directive."
Thus, NHRC's urgent intervention has been sought by Rao's family to immediately direct the hospital and prison administrations to provide transparent, official updates on his health status and line of treatment given to him, every six hours to his family members. Finally the letter states-
"The NHRC should also consider directing the hospital authorities to provide us with a point-of-contact in the hospital for regular updates and to make medical records accessible to his family. We believe as Mr. Rao's family, we should have access to information about the patient concerned as it should be according to the law of the land and medical ethics. We also urge the NHRC to direct the concerned authorities to allow a family member to assist/attend him, since he is reportedly not in a position to do anything on his own."