The Supreme Court Saturday suspended the impugned judgment and order of the Bombay High Court acquitting former Delhi University professor G N Saibaba in a case relating to his alleged Maoist links and stayed the release of five persons, including Saibaba, Live Law reported.
During the hearing, the bench mentioned that it had found a fault with the High Court for not entering the merits of the case and for finding a shortcut to decide.
While pronouncing the order, the court said: “High Court has not considered the merits. The HC discharged the accused only on the ground that the sanction was invalid and some material which was placed before the appropriate authority and sanction was granted on the same day.”
After hearing both sides, a bench of Justices M R Shah and Bela M Trivedi said: “By the impugned judgment and order, HC has discharged the accused no 1 to 5 (except accused 2 who died during pendency) on the ground that the sanction to prosecute those accused was vitiated and was invalid sanction as there was non-application of mind. on the part of the sanctioning /review authority, as no reasons were assigned while granting the sanction. Accused 6 was discharged on the ground that at the time of cognizance or framing charge there was no sanction.
During the hearing, Live Law quoted Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta as pointing out: “There are 6 accused. So far as accused 1 to 5 accused, the contention was that the sanction is not proper. So far as accused 6(Saibaba) is concerned, he did not raise the ground of sanction at trial and was raised at the appellate stage. The purpose of a sanction is to ensure at the threshold that a person is not put to a vexatious trial. This is not a vexatious trial. If after a full-fledged trial, persons are found guilty, there is no vexatious trial.”
The SG also referred to Section 465 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to state irregularities in sanction for prosecution will not vitiate the trial.
“Accused one to five are the foot soldiers. Accused 6 (Saibaba) is the mastermind. When sanction was considered. So, the parameters of appeal are different,” Live Law quoted Tushar Mehta as stating.
When the SG pointed out that the trial court has said it is a very serious offence, Justice Shah said: “High Court has also referred to some observations of the trial court but has not considered them.”
Meanwhile, senior advocate R Basant, who appeared for Saibaba, informed the court that on the date of cognisance or on the date of framing charge, there was no sanction.
After hearing both sides, Justice Shah said: “We will issue notice, grant leave, we will keep it after vacation, we will formulate the questions. Need to hear accused 1 to 5 as well.”
Stating that he was not objecting to granting leave, Basant requested the court not to suspend the order, to which Justice Trivedi responded: “The HC has acquitted on issue of sanction and without reversing the findings of the Trial Court,” and Justice Shah added: “You can make that submission on the ground that the judgment need not be suspended.”
Following this, according to Bar and Bench, Basant said: “Section 437 CrPC applies when the person is acquitted or discharged. Therefore, there is no need to suspend the sentence now. What will happen is by virtue of Section 437A. I will execute the bond and make it available before your lordships.”
When the bench stated that it was finding a fault with the High Court for not entering the merits of the case and for finding a shortcut to decide, Basant said: “He is disabled to 90%. Paraplegic. He hasg multiple other ailments which are judicially accepted. He is confined to his wheelchair. Apart from that, there are no criminal antecedents whatsoever for him. He is leading a respectable life, may be ideologically inclined. There is nothing to show his involvement.”
When Justice Shah mentioned that “so far as terrorist or Maoist activities are concerned, the brain is more dangerous. Direct involvement is not necessary”, Basant responded saying: “The SG says he was the brain, but there is nothing to show his involvement.”
The Supreme Court had Friday refused to stay the acquittal of G N Saibaba, who was accused of Maoist links under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) moved the Supreme Court for stay hours after the Bombay High Court order. The apex court, however, allowed the NIA to move an application before the registry requesting for urgent listing.