Bombay HC acquits Prof GN Saibaba in Maoist case, NIA moves SC

Bombay High Court acquitted G N Saibaba, former professor of Delhi University in a case pertaining to his alleged links with the Maoists

Prof. Saibaba

Prof. Saibaba

NAGPUR: In a crucial judgement, the Bombay High Court on Friday acquitted G N Saibaba, former professor of Delhi University in a case pertaining to his alleged links with the Maoists. The Nagpur bench of the High Court, which had allowed Saibaba's appeal against a trial court ruling, also ordered his immediate release from jail.

Prof. Saibaba, physically challenged and confined to a wheelchair, approached the High Court challenging a 2017 judgement of the trial court which convicted him on charges of his alleged Maoist links and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The Nagpur division bench of the High Court comprising Justice Rohit Deo and Anil Pansare had not only allowed his appeal but eventually acquitted him from the charges.

The Bombay High Court also acquitted five other conficts in the case -- Prashant Rahi, Hem Mishra, Vijay Tikri, Pandu Narote and Mahesh Tikri -- after allowing similar appeals by them against the trial court order. The division bench ordered their release too with immediate effect in case they were not involved in any other cases. One of them, Pandu Narote, died during the pendency of the hearing on the appeal.

Saibaba is presently in Nagpur central jail. The former DU professor, along with the five accused acquitted on Friday, were convicted in March 2017 by a sessions court in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. The trial court found them guilty of having links with the Maoists besides also involving in activities amounting to waging war against the country. A journalist and a student of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) were among the convicted persons in the case.

Charges were pressed against the six including Saibaba under various sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), widely regarded as a draconian law, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Saibaba's links to Telangana movement

Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba, born in Amalapuram of Andhra Pradesh, was crippled by polio when he was five years old and has been wheelchair-bound since then. He is a scholar, writer, professor and also a human rights activist. He was deeply influenced by the Leftist ideology during his postgraduate study at the University of Hyderabad (UoH). He was awarded Ph.D by Delhi University in 2013.

The professor also has an inalienable connection to Telangana and the sentiment surrounding it during the long-drawn out struggle for a separate state. Some reports claim that the first ever resolution demanding a separate state for Telangana was passed under the aegis of the now-outlawed All India People's Resistance Forum (AIPRF), an outfit that he had headed, in 1997.

NIA moves SC against Saibaba's acquittal

Meanwhile, within hours of the Bombay High Court order, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) moved the Supreme Court for stay which the latter rejected.

The apex court, however, allowed the NIA to move an application before the registry requesting for urgent listing. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who mentioned the matter for urgent listing and stay of the verdict, that the court could not stay the acquittal order as the parties were not before it.

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