Civil society groups, academics and human rights activists have come together and appealed to the Chhattisgarh High Court to reverse the “injustice” meted out to human rights activist Binayak Sen.

In an appeal sent to the Chief Justice of the High Court, they said that if this was not ensured, India's already dented credentials as a democracy and an upholder of human rights would be irreversibly damaged.

“While hearing the appeal for bail and reversal of the judgment of the Raipur sessions court, we urge the Chhattisgarh High Court to consider this case in the light of the complete lack of concrete and independent evidence against Dr. Sen, and his demonstrated commitment to promote human rights through non-violent means. It would be highly desirable to ensure speediest possible hearings in this case, enabling an early decision,” the appeal said. It expressed confidence that given the entire background, timely justice would be done.

The appeal was issued at the end of the annual meeting of the Medico Friend Circle held in Nagpur.

‘Inhumane sentence'

“The judgment is an inhumane sentence for a committed humanitarian, whose life before imprisonment was devoted to improving the health and welfare of adivasis and rural poor in Chhattisgarh. His work has led to Dr. Sen becoming the first Indian recipient of the Jonathan Mann award for Global Health and Human Rights in 2008, and receiving the R. R. Keithan award in recognition of his dedication to the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi,” the appeal said.

A copy of the appeal has been forwarded to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt also, along with the signatures of over 100 individuals.

Dangerous precedent

“The judgment effectively sets a dangerous precedent of equating dissent with sedition or treason. Dr. Sen has given his life to the principles of public health and human rights, and to serve the poorest among us. Where the State failed to provide for its poorest citizens, Dr. Sen stepped in to give them healthcare and to champion their rights. He has been rewarded with conviction under a section of the penal code first introduced by the British to quell political dissent, and which was used against Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and Sarat Chandra Chatterjee among others. We are concerned about the prosecution under sedition laws of people who publicly express dissent. We feel that this is not only dangerous and undemocratic, but is also against the principles enshrined in the constitution,” the appeal said.

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