"Those who respect law must also respect the processes of law"

The only remedy to correct the conviction by a trial court of rights activist Binayak Sen on sedition and criminal conspiracy charges is to file an appeal, Union Minister P. Chidambaram said on Tuesday.

“Dr. Sen has been convicted by a court of law; many persons have said the trial court judgment is unsatisfactory; it may be, but the only way to correct it is by filing an appeal,” he said at his monthly press briefing here.

Mr. Chidambaram said he had spoken to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, at the request of Dr. Sen, to ask that the trial be held regularly as it was being held once a week or only on a few days a week. On December 24, the Raipur sessions court sentenced Dr. Sen to life imprisonment.

“That trial has ended in the conviction of Dr. Sen. As both a lawyer and a Minister, I am saying there is no other way but to file an appeal against it. I repeat what I said at the time of receiving the Srikrishna Committee report that those who respect democracy must also respect the processes of democracy, and those who respect law must also respect the processes of law,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

As for Dr. Sen's wife Ilina Sen voicing apprehensions about her safety and that of her daughters, he said he felt sorry about it, and he would talk to the Chief Minister. She would be given assistance, and she should not feel apprehensive about living in India.

Asked about senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh's demand earlier in the day that all terror-related cases be probed by a central agency like the National Investigation Agency, he said the NIA had already been investigating a number of terror cases, though it faced manpower constraints. “All important terror cases are being handled by the NIA, and in future too, all major cases will be handled by it.”

Answering a question on the Srikrishna Committee report, submitted to him on December 30, he hoped that the eight recognised political parties of Andhra Pradesh, including the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti, would attend the meeting he has convened for January 6.

“We will find a way forward from January 6, wait for that meeting and wait for what political parties tell us on that day.”

Mr. Chidambaram said the situation in the left-wing extremism-hit States remained a matter of “grave concern.” During 2010, 713 civilians were killed by the Naxalites, against 591 in 2009. The security forces lost 285 personnel in 2010, against 317 the previous year. “It will be apparent that the Naxalites have not only spurned the offer of talks but have also escalated the conflict.”

The highlight of 2010, he said, was the dramatic change in the situation in the north-east, where violence abated further, beginning in 2009. “Most insurgent groups are in talks with the government, or are poised to commence talks. In 2011, I look forward to agreements being reached with many of the groups and bringing them into the mainstream of politics and society.”

Mr. Chidambaram's observations came two days after Arabinda Rajkhowa, chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom, was released on bail in Guwahati, amid bright prospects of the banned outfit joining the dialogue with the government.

On the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, he said the three-month period of agitation, beginning June, was “an unfortunate and deeply regrettable chapter.” However, after the visit of the all-party parliamentary delegation and the appointment of three interlocutors, the law and order situation improved significantly. “In particular, the interlocutors have been able to change the discourse and…persuade a number of stakeholders to offer suggestions for a political solution.”

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