India: Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba acquitted and released

Aboodi Vesakaran via Unsplash

IND 001 / 0324 / OBS 011
Acquittal /
March 14, 2024

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your intervention in the following situation in India.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the acquittal and subsequent release of Mr Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba, former professor in the University of Delhi and well-known campaigner for the rights of traditionally oppressed communities, especially Dalit and indigenous communities, in India. G.N. Saibaba has spoken out against the violence and discrimination faced by these communities, especially in mineral-rich central India. He also campaigned extensively against serious human rights abuses by state backed private militias and government security forces, including killings, torture, and forced displacement, in Chhattisgarh State since mid-2005.

On March 7, 2024, G.N. Saibaba was released from Nagpur Central Jail, after 10 years of judicial harassment and seven years of continuous arbitrary detention in conditions that appear to have amounted to torture and ill-treatment.

On March 5, 2024, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court had acquitted G.N. Saibaba of all charges against him. The government of Maharashtra State immediately appealed the High Court’s decision with a stay of execution, rejected on the same day. The Maharashtra State government subsequently petitioned such immediate stay to the Supreme Court. On March 11, 2024, the Supreme Court rejected the request, confirming the order of acquittal.

The Observatory recalls that G.N. Saibaba was arbitrarily arrested on May 9, 2014 in Delhi, in relation to his alleged links to a banned Maoist organisation. While returning from his work at Delhi University, he was abducted from the car he was travelling in, brought to the airport, and put on a plane to Nagpur, Maharashtra State. He was never shown an arrest warrant and his relatives were not informed about his arrest. Despite his physical disability, G.N. Saibaba was placed in detention at the Nagpur Central Jail, over a thousand kilometres away from his home.

On March 7, 2017, the District and Session Court of Gadchiroli sentenced G.N. Saibaba to life imprisonment on charges of conspiracy and membership of a terrorist organisation under Sections 13, 18, 20, 39, and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

On October 14, 2022, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court acquitted G.N. Saibaba, arguing that the legal procedures under Section 45(1) of the UAPA had not been adequately followed. However, within 24 hours, the Supreme Court suspended the decision of the Bombay High Court arguing that the procedural issue could not lead to G.N. Saibaba’s acquittal given the gravity of the alleged crime and requested a new hearing, which was held on March 5, 2024.

The Observatory further recalls that G.N. Saibaba’s health severely deteriorated while in detention. Saibaba has a disability due to polio and other severe health issues including a heart condition, brain cyst, hypertension, and breathing difficulties. In addition, the prison administration failed to take adequate measures to address his mobility impairment while he was in a wheelchair. On the contrary, he was held in solitary confinement in a windowless cell. In 2018, his left arm was paralysed due to nerve damage and the lack of timely treatment. The inflammation has since spread to his right arm, and he is no longer able to use his hands for writing or daily functions. United Nations human rights experts called for his release on medical grounds in 2018, urging Indian authorities to ensure G.N. Saibaba’s access to health care and reminding them that “any denial of reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities in detention is not only discriminatory but may well amount to ill-treatment or even torture”.

The Observatory welcomes the acquittal and release of G.N. Saibaba but underlines that he should never have been detained in the first place, his detention being arbitrary as it merely aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities.

Moreover, the Observatory reiterates its concern over the misuse of the UAPA by the authorities to target human rights defenders and silence dissent and urges the Indian authorities to release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained under this legislation.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of India, asking them to:

 Immediately provide G.N. Saibaba with adequate, effective, and prompt reparations for his arbitrary deprivation of liberty and the torture and ill-treatment suffered in detention;
 Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in India;
 Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders in India, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
 Immediately put an end to the use of repressive laws to target human rights defenders, ensure India’s compliance with international human rights standards, and repeal the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).


  • Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, E-mail:, Twitter: @narendramodi
  • Mr. Amit Shah, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Email:, Twitter: @AmitShah
  • Mr. Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email:
  • Mr. D. Y. Chandrachud, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court of India, Email:
  • Mr. Shri Devendra Kumar Singh, IAS, Secretary General Chief Executive Officer of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Email:, Twitter: @India_NHRC
  • Mr. Indrajeet Kumar, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email:
  • H.E. Mr. Indra Mani Pandey, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of India in your respective country.

Paris-Geneva, March 14, 2024

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail:
• Tel. FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
• Tel. OMCT: +41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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