Coming out strongly in support of Delhi University professor Dr G N Saibaba, a group of professors, writers and filmmakers spoke against the order of the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court rejecting Saibaba’s bail plea. In a statement issued Thursday, professors from various universities, including DU, JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia, writer Arundhati Roy and filmmaker Sanjay Kak among others condemed the order. “The intolerance of the higher judiciary to the voices of dissent has reached another peak… the denial of bail to Dr Saibaba is an attack on all our democratic rights. We condemn in unison the rejection of bail and quashing his interim bail as well as Arundhati Roy’s freedom of speech,” the statement issued by Committee for the Defence and Release of G N Saibaba read.
Besides rejecting Saibaba’s bail plea, the court had also charged Roy with criminal contempt for writing about Saibaba’s imprisonment and the denial of bail. Criticising the “vindictiveness and vendetta” in the court order, Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said, “This order is not merely unfortunate, but also underlines the need for judicial accountability in the country. It shows sections of judiciary do not have understanding of criminal law or any sensitivity towards the fundamental rights of a citizen.”
He added, “Under three conditions an application for bail may be rejected — if there is a risk of the person fleeing the country, if the person is convicted of a heinous crime and the court is convinced that the accused can commit a similar crime if released and if the person may tamper with evidence. In Saibaba’s case, none of these apply…he has a serious health condition… this order reeks of vindictiveness… It’s the product of a prejudiced mind…” A single-judge bench of Bombay High Court at Nagpur has cancelled the bail of Saibaba, accused of having links with the banned CPI (Maoist), and asked him to report back within 48 hours, or risk facing arrest. He was arrested in May 2014 under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
On July 3, a two-judge bench of the High Court granted him bail following reports of his health deteriorating during his 14-month jail stay. Wheelchair-bound Saibaba is over 90% disabled. He has been paralysed from below the waist since contracting polio in childhood. Saibaba’s wife G Vasantha lashed out against the order, saying she wants to file a case against the “system” that had worsened her husband’s physical condition. “When he was incarcerated, only his legs were not working. Now his left hand has been rendered useless. There were stones in his bladder when he returned. He can’t even wear his own shirt now,” she said, adding that the case against him was a “witchhunt”.