The court pulled up the Maharashtra government for opposing the DU professor’s bail. Dr GN Saibaba has been granted bail forthwith by the Supreme Court. The Bench came down heavily on the counsel for the state when he objected the grant of bail even though the examination of all material witnesses was over. “Do you want to extract a pound of flesh?” asked Justice Kehar. Dismissing as baseless the argument that Saibaba would indulge in anti-national activities if released on bail, the Bench ordered the immediate release of Dr Saibaba.

GN Saibaba. Credit: PTI

GN Saibaba. Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail to disabled Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba, who was arrested in May 2014 on charges of alleged links with naxalites and Maoists.

A bench comprising of Justices J.S. Khehar and C. Nagappan pulled up the Maharashtra government when it opposed bail to Saibaba on grounds that he will tamper with witnesses. During the hearing in February, the bench had directed the state to keep him in a guest house and provide him with medical treatment. The court had granted time for examination of crucial witnesses and posted the matter for further hearing today.

On Monday, during the resumed hearing, counsel for Maharashtra submitted that eight more witnesses are to be examined and that Prof. Saibaba should not be released on bail in the meanwhile. Justice Khehar told the state counsel:  “You have been extremely unfair to the accused, specially given his medical conditions. Why do you want him in jail if key witnesses have been examined? You are unnecessarily harassing the petitioner.”

In his bail plea, Saibaba said he was granted interim bail by a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court on the basis of an email sent to the chief justice by Ms. Purnima Upadhyay, a social activist, who relied upon a report about the physical condition of  Saibaba written by journalist Mr. Pavan Dahat in a newspaper article. The bench asked Dr. Saibaba to seek regular bail in the sessions court. Even as the matter was pending, a single judge on 23 December 2015 acting on a PIL, cancelled the bail and directed him to surrender.

Arrested in May 2014 from the Delhi University campus, the wheelchair-bound teacher has been in Nagpur jail. He had moved the apex court complaining that he was made to travel 170 km every time to attend his case hearings.

Maharashtra government strongly opposed bail to Prof. Saibaba, alleging that it received intelligence inputs that Maoists have launched a campaign to free the professor. “There were instances wherein the Naxal leaders were rescued by the Naxalites in Jahanabad (Jharkhand), Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) and Belampalli (Andhra Pradesh),” the government affidavit said. It referred to a press note published on a website, calling upon the cadres to launch a nationwide public agitation for Saibaba’s release. The note, it said, called upon the cadres to use all means to get him out of custody.  However, the bench rejected the government’s stand and ordered his release on bail.

It may be recalled that the Bombay High Court had directed registration of a contempt case against noted author Arundhati Roy, for writing an article questioning the criminal proceedings against Saibaba. Roy said a reading of the contents of the article  on the basis of which criminal contempt proceedings have been initiated, would reveal that she was only bringing forth the plight of a person who is 90 per cent disabled, wheelchair bound and suffers from a degenerative medical condition that requires constant medical care.

She contended that no bail application of Saibaba was pending when she wrote the article. Therefore, there is no basis to hold that she had a “malafide motive” or a “game plan” to interfere in the administration of justice. While seeking protection of her fundamental right to the freedom of expression, she said there will be far reaching adverse impact if contempt proceedings are initiated against her. She believed that the question of Dr. Saibaba’s liberty was quite literally a question of life and death, due to his worsening medical condition, and therefore it was of urgent and utmost importance that he be granted bail. Her matter is still pending adjudication in the apex court.