Nineteen global human rights bodies on Monday wrote to Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud urging him to review the Supreme Court decision to suspend the Bombay High Court order acquitting professor GN Saibaba.
The professor has been accused of allegedly having links with Maoists.
“Professor Saibaba was subject to arrest, prosecution, and detention in retaliation for his nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association – conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments...,” the letter noted.
The rights bodies also urged the chief justice to consider Saibaba’s deteriorating health condition. The 55-year-old is wheelchair-bound as he suffers from ailments due to which 90% of his body is disabled.
On October 14, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had acquitted the former Delhi University professor who was sentenced to life in 2017. A bench of Justices Rohit Deo and Anil Pansare had held that a sessions court in Gadchiroli charged Saibaba under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act without sanctions from the Centre.
However, just a day later, the Supreme Court suspended the High Court order while hearing a petition filed by the Maharashtra government challenging Saibaba’s acquittal. In its order, a bench of Justices MR Shah and Bela M Trivedi held that the High Court did not consider Saibaba’s appeal on its merits, and gave its judgement only on technical grounds.
In the letter to the chief justice, the 19 rights groups also pointed out that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has said that Saibaba’s detention “resulted from the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs.”
The signatories of the letter include International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India, Freedom Now, Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, Southern Illinois Democratic Socialists of America (USA), Hindus for Human Rights (USA), India Labor Solidarity (UK), Coalition for Justice in India (UK), Indian Workers Association (UK), South Asia Solidarity Group (UK), Turbine Bagh, London, Stichting the London Story, Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance (UK), The Humanism Project (Australia), India Justice Project (Germany), Free Saibaba Coalition (US), Coalition Against Fascism in India, Jericho Movement Boston and India Civil Watch International.