A plea against the acquittal of GN Saibaba, a paraplegic academic arrested on charges of “waging war” against the country with the help of Maoists eight years ago, by the Bombay High Court will be heard by the Supreme Court on Saturday.
The top court agreed on Friday to hear the plea by the Maharashtra government to put the Bombay High Court order on hold after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s forceful pitch that the acquittal was not justifiable under the stringent anti-terror law UAPA.
Mounting a vociferous argument against the release of a wheelchair-bound former Delhi University professor, held in the Nagpur Central Jail, Mr. Mehta said the offense committed by him were “against the nation.”
He was first rejected, nevertheless, by a Supreme Court panel that included Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli.
The bench instructed the Solicitor General, who represented the Maharashtra Police, to “file an application before the registry for getting an administrative decision on urgent listing of the issue from the Chief Justice of India.”
Later that night, a bench of justices MR Shah and Bela M Trivedi was to hear the case at 11 am on Saturday, which is typically a holiday at the Supreme Court.
The court stated earlier in its order: “At this time, we believe it important to remark that the proceedings have been cited before this Court since the Bench presided over by the Chief Justice has heard the case,”
Before the two justices, Mr. Mehta had begged, stating, “We have not lost on merit, but for lack of punishment. If the case is not listed quickly, the matter will become infructuous after they are freed from custody.
“The supreme court cleared the defendants, who had ties to the CPI (Maoist). These individuals committed a significant offense that was also against the interests of the country. UAPA was then invoked, and the high court had to decide if it was correctly used or not, according to Mr. Mehta.
However, the bench argued that the issue wouldn’t be meaningless.
It won’t turn infructuous. They were found not guilty, according to the ruling.
The court stated, “We cannot suspend the acquittal ruling without giving them notice. We would schedule the subject for Monday, October 17, and we may take the matter to the board.
Acquitting Mr. Saibaba earlier in the day, more than eight years after his detention, the Bombay High Court ruled that the sanction order granted to prosecute the accused in the case under the UAPA was “poor in law and void,” and it subsequently ordered his release from custody.
The appeal Mr. Saibaba filed in 2017 to overturn the trial court’s conviction, and life sentence was accepted by the high court’s Nagpur division.
In addition to Mr. Saibaba, the court also exonerated farmers Mahesh Kariman Tirki, Pandu Pora Narote, Hem Keshavdatta, and Prashant Sanglikar (journalist), who were sentenced to life imprisonment, and Vijay Tirki (laborer) who was awarded ten years in jail. Narote died during the appeal process.
The 52-year-old wheelchair-bound Mr. Saibaba is now being held at the major jail in Nagpur. His arrest took place in February 2014.
A sessions court in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district found Mr. Saibaba and several others guilty in March 2017 of having connections to the Maoist movement and engaging in actions that “amounted to waging war against the country.” The other defendants included a journalist and a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).