Editorial: Saibaba Acquittal A Rap Against UAPA Abuse

Editorial: Saibaba Acquittal A Rap Against UAPA Abuse

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, March 06, 2024, 11:19 PM IST
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Prof GN Saibaba | File Photo

The Maharashtra government should stop further pursuing the prosecution of the wheelchair-bound former Delhi University professor G N Saibaba and five others in appeal in the Supreme Court. Acquitting them on Tuesday the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court unambiguously said that the prosecution had failed to prove the case against the accused. Besides, the sanction given for prosecution under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was null and void, the entire prosecution having been vitiated due to an invalid sanction. That it took a high-profile case such as this to reach the acquittal stage meant the honourably acquitted accused suffered 10 years too many in prison. Loss of liberty without foolproof evidence is highly undesirable; nay, an unforgivable atrocity for which the authorities must be held accountable. Yes, Saibaba had sympathies for the Maoists, he probably also followed their activities on the internet, but in the absence of an actual act of violence and/or sabotage participation in any anti-India conspiracy he should not have been thrown into a dingy jail cell for an indefinite period. But this is exactly what the authorities did, spurring the Delhi University college that employed him to dismiss him summarily. Prosecution of the case against Saibaba through various stages from the sessions to the High Court underlined the police failure to produce a shred of evidence buttressing its case of him being a part of an anti-State plot. No material, physical or electronic, was produced. From 2013, when he was first raided, and a year later when arrested, and later when he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017, the prosecution flaunted the anti-terror law without furnishing an iota of evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the wheelchair-bound social activist who fought for the rights of the poor and other underprivileged people. His extreme left-liberal views by themselves do not justify the invocation of UAPA against him. It is not surprising that after the High Court acquittal on Tuesday the state government counsel sought a stay on its order, which the HC rightly declined. What the Saibaba case underlines is the denial of liberty of citizens on mere suspicion. The use of the dreaded anti-terror law freely without any consideration of the loss of liberty it entails, quite aside from the hardships imposed on the suspect and his/her family and friends, must cease. A lazy and inefficient police force invokes UAPA as the first available resort for want of diligent investigation. Often the perceived critics of the incumbent regime are harassed under this draconian law. Both the centre and the states misuse the police to harass their critics. Hopefully, Saibaba’s troubles will soon be over and the college in Delhi which had sacked him will have the grace to restore his job and compensate him financially for wrongful dismissal.

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