Supreme Court stays HC order acquitting ex-DU professor G.N. Saibaba
G.N. Saibaba seen outside Nagpur Central Jail in 2015 .
The former Delhi University professor was sentenced to life in March 2017 in a Maoist links case.
The Supreme Court on October 15 stayed the release of ex-Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba and others from jail as directed by the Bombay High Court in a Maoist links case. It also rejected Saibaba’s plea to put him under house arrest due to his disability and health conditions.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Justice M.R. Shah and Justice Bela M. Trivedi held a special sitting to hear Maharashtra’s plea against the High Court order on October 14 acquitting Saibaba in a case relating to his alleged Maoist links.
The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court had acquitted G.N. Saibaba, the Delhi University professor who was imprisoned in 2017 for alleged links with Maoists. The Bench comprising Justices Rohit Deo and Anil Pansare ordered his immediate release from Nagpur Jail and permitted him to appeal against conviction and life sentence.
In a 101-page judgment, the judges said: “In view of the findings recorded by us, we hold that the proceedings in Sessions Trials 30/2014 and 130/2015 are null and void in the absence of valid sanction under Section 45(1) of the UAPA, and the common judgment impugned is liable to be set aside, which we do order.”
Following the High Court acquitting Saibaba, the Maharashtra government swiftly moved the apex court seeking a stay on the order. On October 14, the top court had refused to stay the Bombay High Court order.
Saibaba was arrested in May 2014 for alleged involvement in “anti-national” activities. He was granted interim bail in 2016 and convicted and sentenced to life in March 2017. Saibaba and five others were charged under the UAPA, a stringent law that does not allow bail.
He was accused of being involved with the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), reportedly the front of a banned Maoist organisation.
Several human rights groups demanded his release on health grounds as he is wheelchair-bound due to polio. Additionally, his defence team, family, colleagues, Dalit activists, and even the United Nations Human Rights Office, led protests saying that the charges against him were false and fabricated.
Saibaba’s health reportedly began to deteriorate in 2020 but the Bombay High Court rejected his application for medical bail. After he was not allowed to participate in his mother’s funeral rites, Saibaba went on a hunger strike in prison. According to reports, his demands were met when his health took a turn for the worse.
As a result of the life imprisonment sentence, Saibaba was removed from his post as assistant professor at the Ram Lal Anand College in Delhi in 2021.
“We had faith that he would be acquitted because he did not do anything wrong. There was no crime and no evidence. I am thankful to the judiciary and all those who supported us,” his wife Vasantha Kumari told a news agency. The court also ordered the release of all others convicted in the case, namely Mahesh Tikri, Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, Prashant Rahi, and Vijay Nan Tirki. The fifth accused, Pandu Narote, died this year.