The Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) has discharged former Delhi University professor G N Saibaba and five others in alleged Maoist links case. The Court has allowed their appeals against conviction and life sentence imposed under the anti-terror law UAPA.
The Court held that the the trial was null and void as valid sanction as required under Section 45 of the UAPA was not obtained. The Court observed that procedural safeguards cannot be sacrified at the altar of a "perceived peril to national security". Detailed story on the reasons can be read here
"Verily, terrorism poses an ominous threat to national security. Vile and abhorrent acts of terror do evoke collective societal anger and anguish. While the war against terror must be waged by the State with unwavering resolve, and every legitimate weapon in the armoury must be deployed in the fight against terror, a civil democratic society can ill afford sacrificing the procedural safeguards legislatively provided, and which is an integral facet of the due process of law, at the altar of perceived peril to national security. The Siren Song that the end justifies the means, and that the procedural safeguards are subservient to the overwhelming need to ensure that the accused is prosecuted and punished, must be muzzled by the voice of Rule of Law."
Emphasising the importance of procedural compliances in cases of terrorism the bench observed that "departure from the due process of law fosters an ecosystem in which terrorism burgeons and provides fodder to vested interests whose singular agenda is to propagate false narratives."
A division bench of Justice Rohit Deo and Anil Pansare of the Nagpur bench pronounced the verdict. One of the accused, Pandu Pora Narote, died in August 2022. Mahesh Tirki, Hem Keshwdatta Mishra, Prashant Rahi and Vijay Nan Tirki are the other accused. The court has ordered the immediate release of Sai Baba and the other accused.
The appellants were represented by Pradeep Mandhyan, Barunkumar, H.P. Lingayat, Subodh Dharmadhikari Senior Counsel assisted by Nihalsingh Rathod. Siddharth Dave, Special Public Prosecutor-Senior Counsel and H.S. Chitaley, Assistant Special Public Prosecutor appeared for the State.
Saibaba, who is bound by wheel chair due to post polio paralysis, had earlier filed application seeking suspension of sentence on medical grounds. He said that he is suffering from multiple ailments, inlcuding kidney and spinal cord problems. In 2019, the High Court rejected his application to suspend sentence.
They were sentenced to life by the Sessions Court at Gadchiroli, Maharashtra in March 2017 for offences under Sections 13, 18, 20, 38 and 39 of the UAPA and 120 B of the Indian Penal Code for alleged association with Revolutionary Democratic Front(RDF), which was alleged to be an affiliate of outlawed Maoist organization. The accused were arrested in 2014.
Case Title: Mahesh Kariman Tirki and Ors. versus State of Maharashtra