The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside a Bombay High Court judgement acquitting former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba who was sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2017 for having links with Maoists, reported Bar and Bench.

Saibaba was arrested in May 2014 after the police alleged that he was “likely to indulge in anti-national activities”. The former professor was granted interim bail in April 2016. Following his conviction in 2017, Saibaba was lodged at the Nagpur Central Jail.

On October 14, the High Court had held that a sessions court in Gadchiroli had charged Saibaba under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act without sanctions from the Central government.

The 55-year-old is wheelchair-bound as he suffers from ailments due to which 90% of his body is disabled. Several human rights bodies and civil society groups had demanded his release on health grounds.

At Wednesday’s hearing, a division bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar sent the matter to the High Court for fresh consideration. The court also suggested that the case be heard by another bench of the Bombay High Court since the previous bench has already formed an opinion on the matter, reported Bar and Bench.

“It will be open for the state to argue that sanction [from the Centre] need not be considered once accused is convicted in such a case,” the Supreme Court said, reported Bar and Bench. “We request the High Court to dispose of the appeals expeditiously, preferably within four months.”

Last year, the High Court had also allowed appeal of five other convicts – Mahesh Kariman Tirki, Pandu Pora Narote, Hem Keshavdatta Mishra, Prashant Sanglikar, and Vijay Tirki – in the case and directed jail authorities to release them unless they have been named as accused persons in other matters. One of the five convicts, Pandu Narote, had died in prison.

The High Court had noted that while terrorism poses a threat to national security, a civil democracy cannot sacrifice procedural safeguards afforded to the accused.