'Who will give Saibaba his health back?': Activists react to his acquittal in UAPA case

Former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba was arrested along with five others in 2014 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for being alleged members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist).
GN Saibaba
GN Saibaba
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Former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba, who has been languishing in the prison for nearly 10 years, was acquitted by the Bombay High Court on Tuesday, March 5. The Court ordered for his immediate release from the Nagpur Central jail. 

The activist-academician, who requires a wheelchair for movement, was arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, along with five others – Mahesh Tikri, Pandu Pora Narote (deceased), Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, Prashant Rahi, and Vijay Tikri – in 2014 for their alleged association with the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist). All the accused involved in the case have been acquitted by the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court.

The bench of Justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki SA Menezes set aside the verdict of the  Gadchiroli Sessions court which had convicted Saibaba and others in 2017.

The bench said it was acquitting all the accused as the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt against them. The Court declared the sanction against the accused under the UAPA as “null and void.”

Reacting to the release of Saibaba, his wife Vasantha in a statement said, “Extremely happy to hear the news of full acquittal for Dr G N Saibaba and others. After 10 long years of struggle, justice is delivered. I only hope there are no future obstacles to his very well deserved freedom. Thank you to the lawyers who have been working on this tirelessly for justice. Thank you to all the human rights defenders, all the people who stood in solidarity for Dr. G N. Saibaba.”

Nihalsing Rathod, one of the lawyers who fought for the release of Saibaba and others in the case, dedicated the victory to Pandu Pora Narote. Narote, who was a farmer, died in September 2022 while the plea was being heard.  “Today's judgment is a bold and brave verdict, which exposes the prosecution case even further. I thank all those who stood with us in these testing and hostile times,” he said. 

The Gadchiroli police in Maharashtra arrested the acquitted persons in 2014, alleging that they were members of the banned CPI party and its frontal organisation – Revolutionary Democratic Front.

While welcoming the acquittal of Saibaba, leading lawyer and activist Indira Jaising raised the question about Saibaba’s loss of liberty for 10 years. “Who will give back his health to him? The courts ? Shame. How many others have to wait for bail? Who pays the price of loss of liberty without authority of law ?” she wrote on X.

Earlier in 2022, the Bombay High Court had set aside the conviction order of the Gadchiroli Sessions Court and acquitted all the accused in the case. However, following the appeal by the Maharashtra government, the Supreme Court immediately suspended the Bombay High Court order and sent them back to prison. The apex court had ordered a different bench of the High Court to rehear the case afresh.

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