GN Saibaba, five others acquitted by Bombay HC in Maoists links case

Wheelchair-bound Saibaba had been languishing in jail for the past eight years after being arrested under the draconian UAPA for their alleged association with CPI(Maoist).
Prof GN Saibaba and his wife
Prof GN Saibaba and his wife

The Bombay High Court on Friday, October 14, ordered the release of jailed professor GN Saibaba, who has been languishing in prison for the past eight years. Saibaba who taught at Delhi University was arrested along with five others – Mahesh Kariman Tirki, Pandu Pora Narote, Hem Keshavdatta Mishra and Prashant Rahi – in 2014 for their alleged association with the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist). They were arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Saibaba, who is wheel-chair bound, had said that he suffered immense cruelty from the State which denied him basic privacy. 

In their verdict, Justice Anil L Pansare and Justice Rohit B said that the proceedings in Sessions Trials held in 2014 and 2015 were to be declared null and void in the  absence of a valid sanction under Section 45(1) of the UAPA.

“The prosecution did submit that if the appeal is decided, not on merits, but only on the point of sanction, we may grant liberty to the prosecution to obtain proper sanction and try the accused. In view of the well entrenched position of law, that the rule against double jeopardy has no application if the trial is held vitiated due to invalidity or absence of sanction, we see no reason to dilate any further on the said submission,” the judgement read. 

The court ordered the release of all the accused forthwith, unless their custody was required in any other case.   

During the course of the trial, Pandu Pora Narote, who was listed as the second accused in the case, died in September after contracting swine flu. The lawyers had blamed the prison authorities for Pandu’s death for their alleged negligence in providing treatment. 

Speaking to TNM, AS Vasantha, wife of Saibaba said, “We welcome the judgement. I thank each and everyone who stood by us in these past eight turbulent years. It is quite unbelievable that he has been acquitted from the case in these times. I thank the judiciary, too.”

While speaking, the joy of her husband’s release is quickly overcome by the grief of Pandu’s death. “It is very depressing that Pandu could not be alive for this day. If he was alive he would have been happy with his wife and children. This is the one thing which really bothers me.”

Reacting to the release of the accused in the case, activist Kavitha Krishnan wrote, “Prof Sai Baba, welcome back to our midst, friend. Congratulations to his wife A S Vasantha Kumari & his defence team that won his acquittal. This disabled human rights defender - proved innocent now - had to suffer what amounts to torture in prison for so long, damaging his health. Shame.”

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