Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba, India

Posted April 22, 2019

Professor Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba is a professor and human rights activist wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Professor Saibaba is a scholar of English literature at Delhi University who has engaged in human rights activism on behalf of vulnerable populations in India, including tribal groups who suffer from poverty and human rights violations due to the prolonged conflict between India and the separatist Communist Party of India (Maoist), also known as CPI (Maoist). Professor Saibaba has been denied access to medical care despite ongoing medical complications.

UPDATE: On March 5, 2024, the Bombay High Court acquitted Professor Saibaba; he was released from the Nagpur Central Jail two days later on March 7.  On Monday, March 11, India’s Supreme Court rejected an application from the Maharashtra government seeking a stay on the High Court’s acquittal.

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 Case Information

Police reportedly arrested Professor Saibaba on May 9, 2014 as he left the university campus and claimed to have found documents and correspondence allegedly proving his connections with the CPI (Maoist). On March 7, 2017, Professor Saibaba was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on a charge of “being a member of a terrorist gang or organization” despite a lack of credible evidence linking Professor Saibaba to the CPI (Maoist) group. Professor Saibaba has denied the charge.

Professor Saibaba suffers from post-polio syndrome, which inhibits the use of his legs. Since his arrest, his health has deteriorated at an alarming rate. In addition to his disability, Professor Saibaba is suffering from 19 health issues, including life-threatening acute pancreatitis and impacted gallbladder stones, both requiring surgery immediately. He has further described cardiac complications, hypertension, and, according to a recent letter, has been frequently feverish, falling unconscious, unable to sleep due to shooting pains in his left hand and left leg, and suffering from severe urinary pain.

On December 17, 2018, a court granted Professor Saibaba to undergo a medical examination. In January 2019, the doctor submitted a check-up report, informing the court of the 19 health issues Professor Saibaba suffers from. Despite his medical concerns, on March 25, the court rejected Professor Saibaba’s bail plea.

On February 13, 2021, it was reported that Professor Saibaba tested positive for COVID-19. Authorities tested Professor Saibaba for COVID-19 after he developed a fever and cough. According to the Nagpur Central Jail Superintendent, Anup Kumre, after the test result came back positive, authorities sent Professor Saibaba to the Government Medical College and Hospital for a check-up and had him treated by the prison doctor once he was sent back to Nagpur Central Jail. Reports indicate that over the years of Professor Saibaba’s imprisonment, he has been mistreated and denied access to medication, proper medical treatment, and appropriate wheelchair accessibility standards in prison.

In the weeks after his arrest in 2014, Delhi University (DU) announced that Professor Saibaba had been suspended and subsequently opened an investigation into him. SAR understands from the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA), that on June 26, 2019, DU’s Ram Lal Anand College issued a show cause letter to Professor Saibaba. In September 2020, the college sent another letter stating that Professor Saibaba would have fifteen days to respond to the show cause notice. Professor Saibaba’s spouse, Vasantha Kumari, responded on Professor Saibaba’s behalf, explaining that due to social distancing measures taken in response to COVID-19 at Nagpur Central Jail and Professor Saibaba’s worsening health, it would not be possible for Professor Saibaba to respond to the show cause notice. On March 31, 2021, DU’s Ram Lal Anand College, issued a termination letter to Professor Saibaba. The letter did not provide any reason for the university’s decision to terminate Professor Saibaba.

On January 10, 2022, it was reported that Professor Saibaba tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time. According to Professor Saibaba’s spouse, Vasantha Kumari, as of January 10, prison authorities have not transferred Professor Saibaba to a hospital to receive medical attention. After Professor Saibaba first suffered from COVID-19 in February 2021, prison authorities quickly sent him back to Nagpur Central Jail, preventing him from fully recovering from the virus.

On October 14, 2022, the Bombay High Court ordered Professor Saibaba released based on a procedural lapse during his prosecution. The following day, however, the Supreme Court granted an appeal by the government of Maharashtra and suspended the ruling.

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