New Delhi: Former Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba and four others were sentenced to life imprisonment for their alleged links to Maoists and for “waging war” against India by the Gadchiroli sessions court in Maharashtra on Tuesday, the Hindu reported.
JNU student Hem Mishta, former journalist Prashant Rahi, Mahesh Tirke and Pandu Narote received life imprisonment sentences. Meanwhile, Vijay Tirke was awarded ten-year imprisonment.
The six accused were convicted under Sections 13, 18, 20, 38, 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (Amendment 2008) and 120 B of the IPC, said advocate Barun Kumar, who represented them in the court along with advocate Surendra Gadling.
Mishra and Rahi were first arrested in August and September 2013 from Aheri and Chhattisgarh respectively, according to the police. Saibaba was arrested on May 9, 2014, from his residence in Delhi on the basis of incriminating material recovered from the two, the Financial Express reported. The police claimed they found documents, hard disks and pen drives that contained significant evidence.
Saibaba, a paraplegic, was lodged in Nagpur Central Jail for 14 months following his arrest. However, according to a report by News18, in March 2016 the Supreme Court bench of Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice Nagappan acted on a special leave petition challenging the rejection of bail for Saibaba by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court. Noticing Saibaba’s deteriorating health, they granted bail to the professor on medical grounds. The apex court had also reprimanded the counsel of the Maharashtra government. “You have been extremely unfair to the accused, especially given his medical examination,” the bench asserted.
While the Delhi University Teachers’ Association supported Saibaba’s reinstatement at his college following the initial investigation, a group of students led by ABVP members had opposed the move claiming that it would have a “bad influence” on students, Firstpost reported. Sources say that Saibaba was heckled by members of the ABVP during his visit to the college campus last week. Further, within a period of five days, three attempts were made to attack him inside the college campus.
Prosecution lawyer Prashant Sathianathan sought that the accused be given life imprisonment under section 20 of the Act, adding that no reprieve should be granted to Saibaba for his disability as that did not deter him from aiding and abetting violent activities that claimed many lives, Financial Express reported.
Saibaba first came under fire after arrested JNU student Mishra told the police during interrogation that he was acting as a courier between the professor and Maoist leaders, including Puppalla Laxman Rao alias Ganapathy.