The committee appealed to the Supreme Court after it suspended the Bombay High Court’s acquittal order of Saibaba and five others.
The Committee of Defense and Release of GN Saibaba on Tuesday, 18 October, appealed to the Supreme Court to review and reconsider its decision after the apex court suspended the Bombay High Court’s acquittal order of Saibaba and five others.
Written by noted Political Scientist G Haragopal, the appeal stated, “We felt that the Bombay High Court judgment finally did justice to Saibaba and others who have been incarcerated for the last almost seven years. The reversal of the judgment in a great hurry is a reflection on the justice system in India.”
The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on 14 October, acquitted former Delhi University professor, activist, and writer GN Saibaba and five others in an alleged Maoist links case, in which they were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.
However, in an urgent hearing the next day, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices MR Shah and Bela M Trivedi overturned the order, observing that the offences were serious.
The bench, in a special sitting, also observed that the Bombay High Court had not properly examined the merits of the case.
Meanwhile, AS Vasantha, wife of Saibaba, told South First, “While I am upset that the Supreme Court reversed the high court’s decision, I have full faith in the Indian judicial system. I will continue taking the legal course advised by my lawyer.”
In its appeal, the committee said that jails in India, instead of being reformative places, are becoming places of punishment.
“It defeats the very purpose of the idea of prison. This is what led to the deaths of Stan Swamy and Pandu Narote. This should not repeat in the case of Saibaba, who has been voicing his concerns on the suffering of the marginalised sections of society. Such human concerns increasingly lead to the humanisation of such society,” the statement read.
Both Father Stan Swamy and Pandu Pora Narote passed away in prison.
Tribal rights activist Swamy was accused in the Elgar Parishad case — that inflammatory speeches given there led to the Bheema Koregaon clash. He suffered from several ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, and died on 5 July, 2021.
As per reports, Narote (33) passed away in August 2022 after contracting the highly-contagious swine flu.
His lawyer had alleged that his family was kept in the dark about Narote’s illness for a long spell by the prison authorities, and that he learned about it from external sources.
The other four co-accused of Saibaba are Mahesh Tirki, Hem Keshwdatta Mishra, Prashant Rahi, and Vijay Nan Tirki.
Expressing worry about his worsening health, the committee wrote, “We are deeply worried about his health and further aggravation of his 90 percent disabilities. We appeal to the supreme judicial authority of the country to review and reconsider his case and consider the judgment of the Bombay High Court and acquit him and others in this case. This would restore public confidence in the justice system of our country.”
Sources told South First that Saibaba, who is wheelchair-bound and 90 percent physically disabled, used to write a lot of letters from the prison to his family.
However, as his left hand is on the verge of failure and his right hand works only partially, Saibaba now takes a week to write one page.
As per sources, Saibaba also suffers from pancreatitis, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, chronic back pain, immobility, and sleeplessness.
Due to this, he has two attendants in the Nagpur Central Jail’s “anda cell” — the local name for the solitary-confinement cell — as he cannot even hold a spoon or go to the washroom by himself.
Regarding custody, Article 15(2) of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) obligates a state to protect persons with disabilities from inhuman treatment and punishment.
In response to Justice Shah’s observation that as far as terrorist or Maoist activities are concerned, the brain is more dangerous than the direct involvement, the committee pointed out an observation by Justice DY Chandrachud, who is set to take charge as the Chief Justice of India on 9 November.
It said, “Dissenting voices — as Justice DY Chandrachud observed — work as a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the executive authority; unchecked power is like a pressure cooker, which can lead to a blast at any time if dissent is not allowed.”
It added: “The judiciary must protect the freedoms of the citizens. It has to balance the freedoms of the citizens and power of the state. If it has to err, it should be on the side of freedom.”