Former DU professor GN Saibaba acquitted over alleged Maoist links

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • What is the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967?
  • 2019 Amendment of UAPA
  • Background of the case
  • News Summary: Former DU professor GN Saibaba acquitted over alleged Maoist links

Why in news?

  • The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay HC acquitted former Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba and five others in a Maoist links case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
  • The court said that the prosecution could not prove the case against them beyond reasonable doubt.

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967

  • About
    • Enacted in 1967, UAPA is the primary counter-terror law in India.
    • It was enacted to outlaw and penalise unlawful and terrorist activities, which pose a threat to the integrity and sovereignty of India.
    • These activities include:
      • Aiding and abetting terrorists
      • Funding terrorists
      • Inciting anti-national feeling in the masses
      • Other unlawful activities against the state
  • Key provisions of UAPA
    • Wide ranging powers to Central Govt
      • It provides wide-ranging powers to the Central Government to designate organisations as terrorist organisations 
      • It also prescribes the penalties for taking part in the activities of such organisations.
    • Applicability
      • It is also applicable if the offences are committed outside India. Both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged.
    • Timeline
      • A charge sheet can be filed in maximum 180 days after the arrests.
      • The investigation has to be completed within 90 days.
      • If investigation is not completed with the stipulated time, the accused is eligible for default bail.
    • Special court
      • The act establishes a special court designated to conduct trials.
  • Sanction to prosecute under UAPA
    • Section 45(1) of the UAPA says no court shall take cognizance of any offence under the Act without the previous sanction of the central or state government or any officer authorised by them.
    • Under Section 45(2), the sanction for prosecution has to be given within a prescribed time only after considering the report by the competent authority.

2019 Amendment of UAPA

  • The original act was amended in the years 2004, 2008, 2013, and 2019 to increase its scope and ambit. 2019 amendment changed the following:
  • Who may commit terrorism:
    • The amendment additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
  • Approval for seizure of property by NIA:
    • The Amendment adds that if the investigation is conducted by an officer of the NIA, the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of such property.
  • Insertion to schedule of treaties
    • The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act.
    • The Schedule lists nine treaties, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979).
    • The Amendment adds another treaty to the list. This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).

Background of the case

  • Conviction of Saibaba and 5 others
    • G N Saibaba and five others were arrested between 2013 and 2014.
    • All six accused were charged with criminal conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India through unlawful activities by use of violence.
      • They were arrested on allegations that they were members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and its frontal group Revolutionary Democratic Front.
    • They were convicted of alleged involvement in Maoist activities in March 2017.
    • Five of the convicts, including Saibaba, were given life imprisonment; the sixth, Vijay Tirki, was given rigorous imprisonment because he was a first-time offender.
  • Acquittal by Bombay High Court in 2022
    • In October 2022, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay HC acquitted G N Saibaba and four others of aiding and abetting Naxal activities (the fifth one had died by that time).
    • The court held the entire trial against them to be null and void in the absence of a valid sanction under section 45(1) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
      • As per the Court, the sanction to prosecute under UAPA was accorded by the Maharashtra govt after the trial began against the accused.
        • However, as per section 45(1) of UAPA, it should have been submitted before the trail.
    • As for other accused, the reviewing authority's report to the State home department seeking grant of sanction was without reasons.
      • The bench held that this exclusion was a breach of the mandatory provisions of sub-section (2) of Section 45 of the UAPA.
    • The division bench underlined the importance of following due process in legal proceedings.
  • Supreme Court set aside the October 2022 HC verdict
    • In October 2022, the SC suspended the Nagpur bench verdict
    • It held that the high court had not gone into the merits of the case or the seriousness and gravity of the offences for which the accused were convicted.
    • In April 2023, the SC directed the HC to hear the appeal filed by Saibaba afresh.

News Summary: Former DU professor GN Saibaba acquitted over alleged Maoist links

  • Former Delhi University Professor G.N. Saibaba was acquitted by the Bombay High Court.
  • The Court noted that the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt against him and other accused in the case.
  • The court ordered the immediate release of the academician-activist, who is completely wheelchair-bound and 90 per cent disabled.
  • HC noted that the entire prosecution was vitiated on account of an invalid sanction to prosecute the accused.
  • The court also noted that the trial that was held despite the violation of mandatory provisions of law amounted to a failure of justice.
  • It further pointed out that the prosecution failed to establish legal seizure of material and could not prove any incriminating 

Q1) What are the effects of nuclear terrorism?

The detonation of an improvised nuclear device (IND), radiological dispersal device (RDD), or the placing of a radiological exposure device (RED) would lead to serious consequences. Such incidents would damage human health and the environment, create panic, and affect economic and political stability.

Q2) What is the National Investigation Agency (NIA)?

 The National Investigation Agency is a specialized counter-terrorism law enforcement agency in India. The agency is empowered to deal with the investigation of terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states under written proclamation from the Ministry of Home Affairs.


Source: Former DU professor GN Saibaba acquitted over alleged Maoist links: What was the case against him? | MHA | PRS India | The Hindu