The Supreme Court on Saturday suspended the October 14 order of the Bombay High Court discharging former Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba and five others in an alleged Maoist links case.
A bench comprising Justices M.R. Shah and Bela M. Trivedi suspended the high court's judgment and issued notice on the appeal filed by the Maharashtra government challenging the order.
The top court said: "We are of the firm opinion that the impugned judgment of the High Court is required to be suspended..."
The bench added that the accused were convicted after detailed appreciation of evidence and offences are very serious and if the state government succeeds on merits, offences are very serious against the interest of the society.
The bench noted that the high court has not considered the matter on merits, and rather taken a shortcut to decide the matter.
It added that the high court discharged the accused only on the grounds that sanction was invalid and it was pointed out that there was irregularity in granting sanction by concerned authority.
Senior advocate R. Basant, representing Saibaba, said that his client is 90 per cent differently abled and having multiple other ailments which are judicially accepted, and he is confined to wheelchair.
Referring to the absence of trained persons in prison to help Saibaba to answer the calls of nature, Basant said: "When I am discharged, kindly do not send me back to prison. Any conditions can be imposed. It is a case of life and health for him."
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Maharashtra government, said the question of sanction was not pressed or argued before the trial court by the accused.
However, the high court decided the entire matter on point of sanction alone without going into merits and when sanction was received, trial court was moved by the prosecution with a proper application to which the accused gave their no objection, said Mehta.
He added that the facts of the matter are very disturbing and calls were made for supporting arms in Jammu and Kashmir, supporting overthrowing Parliament, arranging meetings with Naxalites, attacking our security forces etc.
Mehta emphasized that this is not a vexatious trial and after a full-fledged trial, persons were found guilty.
Basant said his client's counsel argued on full merits and the high court only considered one aspect (sanction).
"Kindly see my plight, our incarceration will be prolonged," he said, adding that the court may consider placing his client under house arrest.
The bench said: "We are not finding faults with you (Saibaba), we are finding faults with the high court for not entering the merits of the case. You may have argued everything, but can the benefit of the mistake committed by the high court be given to the accused?"
Mehta also opposed Saibaba's plea for house arrest in view of his health condition.
"There is a tendency from urban naxals to seek house arrests. But everything can be done from within the home for them (even using a phone) .Please say that house arrest can never be an option," said Mehta.
The Maharashtra government had moved the apex court questioning the validity of the Bombay High Court's judgment discharging Saibaba and the five others in the case of having links with banned Maoists organisations due to absence of sanction.
"The High Court has erred in not considering the fact that the point of sanction was neither raised nor argued before the trial court and yet the trial court had rightly concluded the said point against the accused holding that there was no substantial failure of justice," the state government said in its appeal.
The matter will be heard next in December.
(With inputs from IANS)