Supreme Court Upholds Ruling Of Nagpur Bench Of BHC Acquitting Political Prisoner Dr G N Saibaba In Maoist Links Case

Mumbai, March 11, 2024: The Supreme Court on Monday declined to stay the Bombay High Court judgment acquitting political prisoner Dr G N Saibaba , (a former professor of English at Delhi University’s Ram lal Anand College), who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act case over alleged Maoist links.

Observing, prima facie, that the high court’s March 5 judgment is “very well-reasoned”, a bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said, “The law is that there is a presumption of innocence. Once there is an order of acquittal, that presumption gets fortified.”

The Nagpur bench of the BHC had acquitted Dr Saibaba and five other co-accused who were convicted by the trial court in 2017, noting that the prosecution failed to prove its case. It also ruled that the sanction under UAPA was null and void, and that the entire prosecution case had been vitiated on account of the invalid sanction to prosecute the accused.

The high court said the trial that was held despite the violation of mandatory provisions of law amounted to a “failure of justice”. It pointed out that the prosecution failed to establish legal seizure of material and could not prove any incriminating material against the accused. The high court added that the mere possession of literature sympathetic to Maoist philosophy could not be an offense under the UAPA and merely downloading Naxal material would not constitute an offense unless specific evidence was provided.

On Monday, while hearing the Maharashtra government’s appeal against the high court order, the apex court said, “There are two orders of acquittal by two different benches. Prima facie, we find that the judgment is very well-reasoned. Since on an earlier occasion, this court had interfered, we will have to honor. Otherwise, this is a very well-reasoned judgment by the high court. In ordinary course, we would not have entertained this appeal. The parameters of interference with acquittal orders are very limited,” said Justice Gavai.

“It’s a hard-earned acquittal. How many years has the man spent in jail?,” added Justice Mehta.

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