UN Rights Experts Urge India to Release Jailed Delhi University Professor Saibaba

The academic was arrested in May 2014 for his alleged links to Maoists and for “waging war” against India, and was sentenced to life imprisonment last year.

New Delhi: In a joint statement released in Geneva on Thursday, UN rights experts urged India to release jailed Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba – who is reportedly being held in solitary confinement – and his health is deteriorating.

According to the statement, wheelchair-bound Saibaba “is suffering from more than 15 different health problems, some of which have potentially fatal consequences.”

The academic was arrested in May 2014 for his alleged links to Maoists and for “waging war” against India by a Gadchiroli sessions court in Maharashtra, Scroll.in reported. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2017 and is since being held under unhygienic conditions – “in darkness and with inadequate and inaccessible facilities”, in a Nagpur jail.

The experts, including special rapporteurs Catalina Devandas, Michel Forst, Dainius Pūras and Nils Melzer, signatories to the statement have stressed that the professor is “now in urgent need of adequate medical treatment.”

“We would like to remind India that any denial of reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities in detention is not only discriminatory but may well amount to ill-treatment or even torture. In particular, solitary confinement should be prohibited when the conditions of prisoners with disabilities would be made worse by this measure.”

Calling Saibaba “a long-standing defender of the rights of various minorities against corporate interests,” the UN experts urged the state to guarantee that all human rights defenders the country “are able to conduct their legitimate work without fear of threats or exposure to any act of intimidation or reprisals.”

The Wire reported last March that Saibaba first came under fire in 2013 after an arrested Jawaharlal Nehru University student, Hem Mishra, told the police during interrogation that he was acting as a courier between the professor and Maoist leaders.

The academic was arrested by the Maharashtra police on May 9, 2014, while on his way home from college in Delhi. He was accused of entering into a criminal conspiracy with senior Naxal commanders Narmadakka and Ramdhar, who reside in the forests of Gadchiroli, and was charged with various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act dealing with conspiracy, and membership of ‘a terrorist gang or organisation’. Saibaba, a paraplegic, was lodged in Nagpur Central Jail for 14 months following his arrest.

In late June 2015, according to Scroll.in, the Bombay high court granted Saibaba bail on medical grounds. Released in July 2015, Saibaba returned to jail in December and was released once again in April 2016, after the Supreme Court granted him bail. Then in March 2017, he was sentenced to life imprisonment and has been in jail since.