'Proceedings Null & Void': Bombay HC Sets Aside Order Convicting GN Saibaba

The court has further ordered Professor Saibaba's immediate release.

3 min read

Video Producer: Aparna Singh

Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday, 14 October, held the entire trial against former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba in an alleged Maoist links case to be "null and void". The court discharged him and ordered his immediate release.

"In view of the findings recorded by us, we hold that the proceedings in Sessions Trials 30/2014 and 130/2015 are null and void in the absence of valid sanction under Section 45(1) of the UAPA, and the common judgment impugned is liable to be set aside, which we do order. (sic)"
Justices Rohit Deo and Anil Pansare

The judgment indicates that four of his co-accused in the case — Mahesh Tikri, Hem Keshwdatta Mishra, Prashant Rahi and Vijay Nan Tirki — have also been discharged.

The fifth co-accused Pandu Narote, passed away in August 2022 at the age of 33, after reportedly contracting the highly-contagious swine flu. His lawyer Akash Sorde had alleged that his family were kept in the dark about Narote's illness for a long spell by the prison authorities and he too had only learnt about it from external sources.

A sessions court in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra had in 2017 convicted Professor Saibaba for alleged maoist links and sentenced him under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to life imprisonment.

Court's Reasons for Discharge

The court, in their judgment, said that in absence of a valid sanction under Section 45(1) of the UAPA, the entire trial against Saiba and his co-accused is null and void.

Section 45(1) of the Act holds spells out the conditions that must be met by a court taking cognisance of an offence under chapters III (offences and penalties), IV (punishment for terrorist activities) and VI (terrorist organisations)  of the Act. 

According to the bench, the sanction to prosecute Saibaba was granted by the Maharashtra government only after the trial began, instead of being accorded before.
With regard to the co-accused, the court said that the Directorate of Prosecution’s report to the State Home Department was without reasons, which in turn, is a breach of mandatory provisions (under Section 45(2) of UAPA).

Rejecting the prosecution’s submission that the defect was curable, the court said:

“We are inclined to hold, that every safeguard, however miniscule, legislatively provided to the accused, must be zealously protected”

Saibaba's Struggles in Jail

Saibaba is wheelchair-bound and suffers from ailments due to which 90% of his body is disabled. Several civil society organisations had repeatedly sought his release from jail.

In a letter addressed to former CJI NV Ramana in June, they said:

“Professor GN Saibaba was in an intensive care unit receiving treatment, but without any consideration of his health condition, he was shifted to solitary confinement in an Anda Cell. Since then Prof GN Saibaba has been losing his remaining bodily abilities because of neglect and lack of proper care and so his “life sentence” is turning into a “death sentence.””

Further elaborating on the struggles Saibaba faced under incarceration at the Nagpur Central Prison, Advocate Sorde said that he was deprived of proper treatment for his health conditions.

He also said that Saibaba had requested that he may be shifted from Anda cell to 'Fasi-yard', where at least there was a western commode and more space. But that did not happen either.

"He was humiliated several times," Sorde lamented.

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Topics:  Video   Bombay High Court   GN Saibaba 

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