'In the history of Maharashtra this is the first case in which all the persons chargesheeted were all convicted under all the sections they were charged with, and sentenced to life.'
Jyoti Punwani reports.
For the third time in less than three years, Professor G N Sai Baba of Delhi University will be entering jail.
This time, it could be forever.
A vociferous critic of Operation Greenhunt -- the policy of suppression of the Maoists as well as ordinary Adivasis in Chhattisgarh launched by the previous United Progressive Alliance regime -- the 90% disabled professor, who is wheelchair bound, was along with five others, both convicted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act -- UAPA -- and sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions court in Gadchiroli on Tuesday, March 7, for having links with Maoists.
Normally, there is a gap between conviction and sentencing.
Surendra Gadling, the professor's lawyer, told Rediff.com that they would appeal against the verdict.
The defence, Gadling said, had challenged the seizure of electronic evidence against Professor Sai Baba, because it was not sealed and nor were proper procedures followed.
Professor Sai Baba was first arrested in May 2014 and spent 14 months in Nagpur jail before being released on bail on medical grounds by the Bombay high court, after the sessions court had denied him bail.
His health had worsened considerably during those 14 months in jail, and he could not resume teaching.
However, in a strange twist of events, the sessions court ordered that he be arrested and in December 2015, he was again imprisoned.
This time, the Supreme Court granted him bail after three months. However, his college, which had suspended him when he was first arrested, refused to revoke his suspension since his case was not over.
During both incarcerations, he was denied medicines, attendants and admission to hospital, despite orders from the court.
On Tuesday too, according to his wife Vasantha Kumari, the court refused to pass orders directing the jail authorities to give him medicines, assistants or medical treatment.
Describing the conviction as an attempt to silence the academic's voice, Vasantha Kumari said in a statement, 'In the history of Maharashtra this is the first case in which all the persons chargesheeted were all convicted under all the sections they were charged with, and sentenced to life. The judgment seems not to have taken into consideration any of the arguments made by the defence.'
Dr Binayak Sen, a paediatrician working among the Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, an office bearer of the People's Union of Civil Liberties and one who had exposed Salwa Judum, the violent campaign launched by the Chhattisgarh government against tribals in the name of fighting the Maoists, had similarly been convicted and sentenced under UAPA for sedition in December 2010.
In his case too, the seizures made by the police were proved to be violative of all norms. Dr Sen obtained bail from the Supreme Court in April 2011.
- 'The wrath of the State has become a hallmark of our democracy'
- 'Torture is a daily routine'
- 'How can anyone not speak out against the genocide of Adivasis?'
IMAGE: Professor G N Sai Baba with his wife Vasantha Kumari.