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Judge cancels Saibaba's bail, charges Arundhati with contempt

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 2:29 IST

The verdict

  • Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has rejected GN Saibaba\'s bail plea
  • It has charged Arundhati Roy with contempt for writing an article defending Saibaba

The observation

  • The judge criticised the principal bench of the Bombay High Court for granting him bail earlier
  • He stated that the case was shifted from the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court in a non-transparent manner

The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday cancelled the bail of Delhi University professor GN Saibaba.

Saibaba was arrested by the Maharashtra police in May 2014 for allegedly having links to Maoists.

The single judge bench of Justice AB Chaudhari rejected his bail plea and also issued a contempt notice author Arundhati Roy for her article on GN Saibaba published in an English magazine on 18 May this year.

Also read - Believing in an ideology, even Maoism, is not a crime: Hem Mishra

According to the government's lawyer, Bharati Dangre, "Saibaba had earlier sought bail on medical grounds...the court observed that Saibaba did not face any major health issues and that the treatment being given by the state government was adequate."

Referring to the court notice to Roy, Dangre said, "In the article, Roy had criticised the judiciary for not granting bail to Saibaba. She had even termed Saibaba to be a 'prisoner of war'. The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has quoted the entire article in today's judgment". Roy has to reply to the notice by 24 January.

The High Court has ordered Saibaba to "surrender" before the police within 48 hours.

Arrest and bail

A special team of the Gadchiroli police had arrested Saibaba in May 2014 when he was on his way back home from Ramlal Anand College, Delhi University, where he taught English.

The police team had questioned him several times over six months before the arrest. Saibaba was arrested on charges of being an active member of CPI-Maoist, which is a banned organisation.

He was charged with providing logistical support to the organisation and helping in recruitment. "We had arrested him in 2014 after we got substantial evidence of his active involvement in the functioning of CPI-Maoist," said Inspector General of Police, Nagpur Ravindra Kadam.

After the arrest, Saibaba applied for bail several times. However, the applications were rejected by the Nagpur High Court. After the pleas were rejected, one Purnima Upadhyay wrote an e-mail to the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, providing details of the arrest and Saibaba's "deteriorating" health.

The High Court has ordered Saibaba to "surrender" before the police within 48 hours

Taking cognisance of the email, the division Bench of Bombay High Court comprising Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Sunil Shukre had granted bail to Saibaba on 30 June. He was instructed to approach the Nagpur Bench for regular bail. Following the order, Saibaba was released from Nagpur jail on a personal bond of Rs 50,000.

Interestingly, Justice Sunil Shukre, who was earlier posted at the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court had denied bail to Saibaba and expressed satisfaction at the medical care being given to him at Nagpur Central Jail.

Chief Justice's decision questioned

During the hearing on regular bail application filed by Saibaba on 24 November this year, Justice AB Chaudhari had expressed his displeasure over the decision of Chief Justice to grant him bail based on an email. He had even asked some tough questions regarding the legality of the Chief Justice's decision.

He raised serious concerns over 'non-transparent' practice of shifting cases from the Nagpur and Aurangabad benches to the principal bench. He opined that the practice undermined the authority of the judges in these benches.

Also read - Bombay HC rejects ailing DU professor GN Saibaba's temporary bail plea

In the order passed on 20 November Justice Chaudhari had asked, "Can Hon'ble Chief Justice order transfer of cases from a bench or benches to the principal bench with or without any motion or without assigning any reason or without hearing the parties concerned or without knowing the views of the learned judge or judges from whose bench the matter is proposed to be transferred?"

During the hearing on regular bail application on 20 November, Saibaba's counsel Rebecca John had told the court that her client did not apply for bail at the Bombay High Court on any ground. After the hearing, Justice Chaudhari raised grave concerns about the manner in which the principal bench transferred cases and issued conflicting orders.

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First published: 24 December 2015, 10:02 IST
Ashwin Aghor @CatchNews

Journalist based in Mumbai.