International Human Rights and Academic Orgs Urge CJI to Reconsider GN Saibaba’s Release
Image Courtesy: PTI
Ahead of the Supreme Court resuming the hearing of jailed academic GN Saibaba’s case, 19 academic and human rights organisations across the world, including from the United States and the United Kingdom, have written to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to reconsider the former Delhi University professor’s release.
Expressing grave concern for the well-being of Professor GN Saibaba, who is wheelchair-bound and 90% disabled, the joint letter to the CJI by the organisations said, “We therefore respectfully urge you to review Professor Saibaba’s case, reconsider the decision to suspend the Bombay High Court’s decision, and reinstate the [Bombay] high court’s order so Professor Saibaba may be released and finally receive the medical care he urgently needs.”
GN Saibaba is serving a life term for alleged Maoist links under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The Bombay HC had quashed the conviction of Saibaba and others on the grounds of a procedural lapse during the prosecution, NewsClick had earlier reported. On October 15, the Supreme Court suspended the Bombay High Court order on his acquittal. The apex court also sought responses from GN Saibaba and the other accused on a plea moved by the Maharashtra government against the high court order and listed the matter for hearing on December 8.
Scholars at Risk, a group which says it “works to protect threatened scholars and promote academic freedom around the world”, along with the human rights organisations, sent the letter regarding Saibaba’s release to CJI DY Chandrachud on December 5.
On December 8, Professor Saibaba’s hearing will resume at the Supreme Court. We urge Chief Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud to reinstate the Bombay High Court’s ruling to release Professor Saibaba so he may finally receive the medical care he needs. #FreeSaibaba
— Scholars At Risk (@ScholarsAtRisk) December 5, 2022
The letter said that GN Saibaba was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on March 7, 2017 under the UAPA “despite a lack of credible evidence linking him to the CPI (Maoist).” It added, “The UAPA is purportedly intended to prevent acts of terrorism and other national security threats; however, it frequently has been used to punish or suppress nonviolent acts of expression, association, and other human rights by scholars, human rights activists, and other dissidents.”
“Absent any information that may clarify our understanding of these events, the facts as described suggest that 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 including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party,” the letter said.
The letter also drew attention to Saibaba’s health issues, which have been “exacerbated by his long incarceration.” It pointed out that Professor Saibaba suffers from 19 separate conditions, including post-polio syndrome, which inhibits the use of his legs, as well as life-threatening pancreatitis and impacted gallbladder stones, both of which require immediate surgery.
“We are deeply concerned about Professor Saibaba’s health should he remain in prison and not receive appropriate care,” the 19 organisations said in the joint letter to the CJI. They also mentioned that a few months ago, Pandu Narote, who was convicted alongside Professor Saibaba, passed away in prison after contracting swine flu and reportedly being denied medical attention.
Following the Supreme Court’s stay order on Saibaba’s acquittal, the Committee for Defence and Release of Saibaba had expressed similar concerns about the academic’s health. “We appeal to the Supreme Judicial Authority of the country to review and reconsider his case and take the Judgment of Bombay High Court into consideration and acquit him and others in this case. This would restore public confidence in the Justice system of our country,” the Committee had said.
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