Bombay HC Acquits Professor GN Saibaba, 5 Others In Alleged Maoist Links Case

Bombay HC Acquits Professor GN Saibaba, 5 Others In Alleged Maoist Links Case

They had challenged the sessions court order convicting them in 2017.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Tuesday, March 05, 2024, 03:22 PM IST
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Dr GN Saibaba | PTI

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday acquitted former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba and four others in an alleged Maoist link case observing that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. 

The high court also noted the sanction procured by the prosecution to charge Saibaba and others – Mahesh Kariman Tirki, Hem Keshavdatta  Mishra, Prashant Rahi Narayan and Vijay Tirki – under provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was “null and void”. One Pandu Narote passed away pending hearing in appeal. 

The court then set aside the life sentence imposed on the former professor by the special court in 2017. 

“The prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the case against the accused persons,” a division bench of Justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki SA Menezes said. It further added: “The prosecution has failed to establish any legal seizure or any incriminating material against the accused.” 

The HC was hearing appeals filed by Saibaba and others challenging their conviction and sentences by the special court. 

Quashing the trial court order, the HC said: “The trial court judgment is not sustainable in the hands of law. We therefore allow the appeals and set aside the impugned judgment. All the accused stand acquitted.”

The bench emphasised that due to improper sanction under UAPA, the entire prosecution is vitiated. “The entire prosecution is vitiated on account of invalid sanction to prosecute all the accused. The trial held despite the violation of mandatory provisions of law itself amounts to failure of justice,” the bench underlined. 

The court turned down the request from the prosecution to stay the order for six weeks to permit them to approach the Supreme Court. 

On March 7, 2017, the Sessions Judge at Gadchiroli convicted the former professor and five others for offences under UAPA and criminal conspiracy. 

The prosecution’s case against them was that they were active members of the banned terrorist organisation CPI (Maoist) and its formal organisation Revolutionary Democratic Front and were abetting and assisting hardcore underground cadre of CPI by providing information and material and facilitating the travel and relocation of members from one location to the other.

Saibaba and others challenged their convictions before the high court. The HC, on October 14, 2022, acquitted them observing that the trial against them was null and void in the absence of valid sanction under Section 45(1) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The court noted that the sanction to prosecute Saibaba under UAPA was accorded by the Maharashtra government after the trial began instead of before submitting the charge sheet, rendering the proceedings invalid. 

Within hours, the Maharashtra government had approached SC but had failed to get a stay on acquittal.

In a special hearing held the next day (a Saturday), the Supreme Court then suspended the high court order discharging Saibaba and others observing that the “offences are very serious”. In April 2023, the apex court set aside the HC order and directed it to hear the appeals afresh.

Saibaba, who is wheelchair-bound due to physical disability, has been lodged in the Nagpur Central Jail since his arrest in the case in 2014.

Justice Rohit Deo, who headed the bench which first acquitted Saibaba and others, had resigned August 4, 2023, citing personal reasons. He was due to retire in December 2025.

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