Maoist Links Case: Bombay HC Acquits Ex-DU Professor GN Saibaba & 5 Ors

GN Saibaba

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court acquitted former Delhi University professor G N Saibaba in an alleged Maoist links case on Tuesday, noting the prosecution’s failure to establish the case against him.

The court also overturned the life sentence imposed on 54-year-old Saibaba. A division bench of Justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki SA Menezes also acquitted five other accused individuals in the case.

“The prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the case against the accused persons,” stated the High Court.

The court deemed the sanction obtained by the prosecution to charge the accused under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) as “null and void.”

“The prosecution has failed to establish any legal seizure or any incriminating material against the accused,” the division bench observed.

“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,” declared the bench.

The court highlighted that the sanction procured to prosecute the accused under the UAPA was not legally valid. Hence, the sanction was declared “null and void.”

“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 a failure of justice,” the Court affirmed.

Subsequently, the prosecution orally requested the court to stay its order for six weeks to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. However, the bench directed the prosecution to file an application seeking a stay.

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

In March 2017, a sessions court in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district convicted Saibaba and five others, including a journalist and a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student, for alleged Maoist links and for engaging in activities amounting to waging war against the country.

The trial court had found Saibaba and others guilty under various provisions of the UAPA and the Indian Penal Code.

On October 14, 2022, another bench of the High Court acquitted Saibaba, noting the trial proceedings were “null and void” due to the absence of a valid sanction under the UAPA.

On the same day, the Maharashtra government approached the Supreme Court challenging the decision. Initially, the apex court stayed the order, and later in April 2023, it set aside the HC order and directed it to hear the appeal filed by Saibaba afresh.

The earlier High Court bench, comprising Justices Rohit Deo and Anil Pansare, in its October 2022 judgment, noted that the sanction to prosecute under the UAPA was granted in 2014 against the five accused, who were arrested first, and then against Saibaba in 2015.

The bench highlighted that in 2014, when the trial court took cognizance of the chargesheet filed by the prosecution, there was no sanction to prosecute Saibaba under the UAPA.

Justice Deo, due to retire in December 2025, tendered his resignation on August 4, 2023, citing personal reasons.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte