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GN Saibaba Case – Supreme Court sets aside Bombay HC order; new bench to decide appeals afresh

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New Delhi. The Supreme Court set aside a Bombay High Court judgment that had acquitted former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba in an alleged Maoist links case.

A Bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar remanded the matter to the High Court for fresh consideration, keeping all contentions open.

Pertinently, the top court suggested that the case be heard by another bench of the High Court, since the previous bench had already formed an opinion on the question of sanction being needed.

“It will be open for the State to argue that sanction need not be considered once accused is convicted in such a case…We request the High Court to dispose of the appeals expeditiously, preferably within four months. It is also observed that propriety demands that on appeal, the matter be placed before another bench than that which passed impugned order,” the apex court ordered.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju represented the State of Maharashtra. Senior Advocates R Basant and Nitya Ramakrishna and Advocate Shadan Farasat represented the accused.

The verdict came in a challenge to the High Court’s judgment of October 14, 2022 that had allowed an appeal filed by Saibaba challenging a 2017 trial court decision convicting and sentencing him to life imprisonment.

That appeal was allowed based on the fact that the sessions court framed charges against Saibaba in the absence of sanction from the Central government as per Section 45(1) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The High Court had recorded that while terrorism poses an ominous threat to national security and every legitimate weapon in the armoury must be deployed against it, a civil democracy cannot sacrifice procedural safeguards afforded to the accused.

The top court subsequently held a special sitting on Saturday, October 15, and suspended the High Court’s decision.

The order was passed after the Maharashtra government contended that failure to grant sanction cannot lead to acquittal in view of Section 465 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

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