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Maoist links case: Bombay HC acquits former Delhi University professor G N Saibaba and 5 others

Saibaba was arrested under the provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), on May 9, 2014, for alleged links with Maoists by the Maharashtra police.
Last Updated 05 March 2024, 05:44 IST

Mumbai: In a significant development, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday acquitted wheelchair-bound former Delhi University professor and activist G N Saibaba, who was arrested more than a decade ago for alleged links with Maoists.

Five others, Mahesh Kariman Tirki, Pandu Pora Narote, both farmers, Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, a student and Prashant Rahi Sanglikar, a journalist were accused in the case and sentenced to life imprisonment, while Vijay Tirki, a labourer, was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Another accused, Pandu Narote was convicted earlier in 2017 who died in August 2022, due to alleged delay in treatment while in jail.

Saibaba, aged around 57, a former English professor in the Department of English, Ram Lal Anand College, Delhi University, was arrested under the provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), on May 9, 2014, for alleged links with Maoists by the Maharashtra police.

Saibaba, who faces several ailments and health issues, is currently lodged in a jail in Nagpur.

A division bench comprising Justice Vinay Joshi and Justice Valmiki SA Menezes pronounced the judgment.

On October 14, 2022, a division bench comprising Justice Rohit Deo and Justice Anil Pansare had acquitted Saibaba noting that the trial proceedings were "null and void" in the absence of a valid sanction under the UAPA.

As per UAPA provisions, a court cannot take cognizance of an offence until sanction is received from either Central or State government.

However, the Maharashtra government had on the same day approached the Supreme Court challenging the decision.

The Supreme Court initially stayed the order and later in April 2023, set aside the Bombay High Court order and directed it to hear the appeal filed by Saibaba afresh.

While deciding the case, the bench of Justice Joshi and Justice Menezes said that the accused can be released from prison upon deposit of Rs 50,000 each as bail bonds till the Supreme Court decides State's appeal. However, the State did not ask for a stay on the judgment.

On March 7, 2017, Saibaba and others were convicted by the Gadchiroli District Sessions Court - for connections with Left-Wing extremist organisations and for “waging war” against India.

Later, they challenged their conviction in the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.

It may be recalled, Saibaba spoke against the Operation Green Hunt.

The prosecution had claimed that Saibaba was the Secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), an alleged frontal organisation of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The family of Saibaba, whose services were terminated by Ram Lal Anand College in 2021, had been demanding his release given his health condition.

CPI (M) while reacting to the verdict, said, “After 10 years in jail, losing the DU job, wheelchair bound and 99 per cent disabled professor Saibaba along with five others have been acquitted! We welcome and celebrate this verdict!"

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(Published 05 March 2024, 05:44 IST)

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