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Updated: December 25, 2010 02:30 IST

Lawyers, activists shocked by Binayak Sen verdict

Aman Sethi
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Dr. Binayak Sen being shifted to jail after he was awarded life sentence by the Raipur Sessions Court, in Chhattisgarh, on Friday.
PTI Dr. Binayak Sen being shifted to jail after he was awarded life sentence by the Raipur Sessions Court, in Chhattisgarh, on Friday.

As a crush of lawyers, reporters and policemen awaited the sentencing of Dr. Binayak Sen, Pijush Guha, and Narayan Sanyal on the ground floor of the Raipur Sessions Court, an almost identical case was under way in another courtroom on the first floor of the same building.

Asit Kumar Sen Gupta stood before Justice O.P. Gupta, awaiting his sentence for criminal conspiracy to commit sedition and wage war against the Government of India. He had been arrested in January 2008 and, like Dr. Sen, charged with hatching a conspiracy to aid the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in its goal of overthrowing the Indian State.

Like Dr. Sen, Mr. Sen Gupta was also found guilty under section 124 (a) to commit sedition. Mr. Sen Gupta avoided the charge of criminal conspiracy, but was sentenced to three years for sedition and another eight years under Section 39 (2) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act; Dr. Sen and his co-accused were sentenced to life imprisonment for a conspiracy to commit sedition on the basis of three letters purportedly written by Mr. Sanyal and handed over to Dr. Sen and Mr. Guha.

Dr. Sen is a celebrated physician and human rights activist who highlighted police and Maoist atrocities in the running battle between Indian security forces and the guerrilla army of the CPI (Maoist). His conviction, and the severity of his sentence, has shocked social activists and senior advocates.

Dr. Sen's trial has been dogged by allegations that the Chhattisgarh police planted vital evidence, schooled witnesses and manufactured testimonies. A number of key witnesses also turned hostile in court.

“Convicting Dr. Sen shows that sections of the judiciary are willing to act as instruments of a State's policy to silence dissent,” said senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, “This will undermine the people's faith in the lower sections of the judiciary.”

“A couple of years for the bosses of Union Carbide and a life sentence for Binayak Sen,” said writer and activist Arundhati Roy, referring to the sentence handed down to those accused in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984.

“After producing Marx's Das Kapital and a letter from the Indian Social Institute as evidence against him, the crisis of Indian democracy does not get more dangerous than this,” Ms. Roy said, referring to the quality of the evidence marshalled by the police in their case against Dr. Sen.

“Where is the crime? Where is the deterrence?” asked counter-terrorism expert Dr. Ajai Sahni when asked if the verdict would serve any purpose in the government's battle against the CPI (Maoist). “This is a perversion of the investigative process and an index of the incompetence of the Chhattisgarh police,” he said.

“It is scandalous to say that he [Dr. Sen] was working against the interest of the country,” said Justice Rajinder Sachar, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and member of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

“The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act., under which he has been convicted, is unconstitutional. PUCL will challenge his conviction and the Act.”

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In Binayak Sen's case Trial court judgement deserves 'suspended public approbation'! Is it possible that the text of the trial court judgement on Dr. Binayak Sen and two others (Pijush Guha, Narayan Sanyal), delivered under obvious and loud extra-judicial compulsion, sought to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the delivered sentence (life imprisonment) fails to stand scrutiny in appellate courts and is ultimately, and in not too distant a future, overturned by one or the other of the same, with the hope/presumption (valid or not) that appellate courts (if not higher then at least the highest) may be in a position to ignore extra-judicial pressures, if any? In other words, whether the very wording of this rambling judgement (a hideous mockery of justice) had a hidden agenda of sabotage, knowingly or unknowingly, from the very inside! If one is a little mindful of the overall character (in addition to details, which, of course, are of fundamental importance) of the unbelievable, outrageous crudity/silliness, of the tiresome text of the judgement, supposed to have been coming from an supposedly erudite source (by conventional standard, judicial fraternity is not expected to be otherwise), the above suggestion may not be felt as wild as it possibly sounds first. On every point of contention from two opposing sides in the trial, the judgement holds, without exception, the prosecution, i.e., police version to be valid just like that, dismissing the defence argument/version offhand without any attempt at any explanation/justification whatsoever1. There is not even any semblance of at least a face-saving effort to make a Show of weighing arguments of two contending sides, so as to hide pre-fixed (by Chhattisgarh Government) character of the sentence. The well known and transparently heinous motive of the state government, viz., to set an example of the price to be paid by any one, daring to expose the monstrous misdeeds of the state, is the rule rather than the exception in India and perhaps is not so much of a surprise. But such an open, visible and unashamed (no attempt to hide) illustration/demonstration of judicial servility to political bosses in power, throwing out all cannons of minimum justice in the process with an unmistakably ugly thud, cannot be said to be as common even today. Had it not been so monstrous/repugnant as well as tragic in its implication, the judgement would be simply ridiculous! It is difficult to believe that anyone (holding a highly esteemed official position in public eye), in his/her senses, would make himself/herself such a laughing stock before the whole world. The act, on the face of it, appears, psychologically speaking, almost like a suicidal attempt to smear the actor's own personal/ official/professional image. So, perforce, and presuming some amount of sanity and common intelligence of any one, in charge of preparing and delivering (assuming, it is the same person) the judgment, one is left with the following inference as almost the only plausible (or so it seems to me) one: Though submission to irresistible extra-judicial pressure caused this pre-fixed sentence to be delivered, text of the judgment, in essence, nullifies the sentence and thus reflects a desperate attempt (conscious or more probably unconscious,), even at the cost of being publicly despised, to find a (roundabout, if you will) way out to both sooth a severely disturbed conscience (judicial and otherwise) and at the same time to save conscience-holder's life/limb/skin/service3 in that order! In view of such considerations, does not the trial court judgment, in addition to being censored, also deserves perhaps to be kept under, what may be called 'suspended public approbation', in analogy to somewhat analogous to 'suspended animation', used in well-known (life-science) context? Though one bird Though one bird is killed, it remains to be seen, of course, whether the other bird (annulment of this repugnantly loud travesty of justice by any appellate court) is also ultimately killed! So, for now, an open approbation, contingent on this count, is premature and may even appear to be a leak-out of a highly guarded secret, harming the very purpose (hidden) of a fearful as well as conscience-stricken member of judicial fraternity!

from:  Subhas Ganguly
Posted on: Feb 20, 2011 at 18:49 IST

The whole world know about A.Raja and his allocation of 2G Spectrum license even to letter pad companies. Yet, there is no solid action against him, who made a huge loss of more than 1.70 lakh crores to the country. Direct evidence exists in this case. For Binayak Sen, just a few letters seized from him and fabricated witnesses, was enough to convict him. Who is against the nation? Dr.Binayak sen, who give consideration even to grass root democracy or A.Raja, who branded India as the most corrupt country apart from creating a huge loss in monetary terms?

from:  Ramesh Sivashanmugham
Posted on: Dec 31, 2010 at 13:32 IST

The day of Dr Sen's verdict was one of those black ones which shakes you to the very roots. More shocking is the apparent media whitewash, where except papers like The Hindu, hardly anyone spared their Editorial columns!!.. Even shocking is the apathy and the active denouncement of many Indians, who are commenting about this admirable personality, with little knowledge of his life's work, achievements and sacrifices... Folks, it is great to support Julian Assange, but we must stand up in battle gears for the icons closer to home.

from:  Dr Kamolini Ghosh
Posted on: Dec 27, 2010 at 00:58 IST

The advocates of civil liberties are shocked at the Civil Liberty Activist Dr. Binayak Sen’s conviction under sections 120 B [hatching a criminal conspiracy] and 124 [waging war against the state] of the Indian Penal Code. The whole events right from his arrest by Chhattisgarh Police to his conviction by a sessions court in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, are shocking - to say the least. May be he was sympathetic to the Naxalites who have become a huge social cum law and order problem in as many as 150 districts in India. But, the magnanimous doctor cannot be branded as a dissident Naxalites seeking to wage war against the state. Equating him with the brutal Naxalites is not truthful and fair. Many civil liberty activists have already voiced concern for the beleaguered doctor. It is no one’s case that the doctor should not be punished under the laws of the land. The single reasonable demand is not to subject the humanitarian social worker to unintended legal brutality. In India, it is very easy for the Police to frame anyone under the sections 120 B 124 of the Indian Penal Code. It is very hard to put up any persuasive defence against these sections. More so, under the circumstances prevailing in certain parts of the country. Dr. Binayek Sen issue must be viewed in the right perspective and it should not even be seen that the Indian state is persecuting him for his known sympathy for the merciless Naxalites. This is bound to dent the image of the country as witch-hunting the civil liberty activists – which India can hardly afford at this juncture.

from:  Bichu Muttathara
Posted on: Dec 26, 2010 at 23:02 IST

It is really a blow to the humanity and shock to the right thinking people and tarnishes the image of the Indian judiciary.As Arundhathi Roy has rightly asked those who were responsible for the death of hundreds were practically spared while a man who raised his voice against injustice has been sentenced to life imprisonment

from:  Chanu
Posted on: Dec 26, 2010 at 11:14 IST

If Dr. Binayak Sen is guilty then we all are. Everyone who tries to live humanly in this banana republic is constantly facing a war against him. His own country and people are wounding him with the weapons of corruption, reservation, injustice and inhumanity. If he tries to defend himself, he is waging war against the country. Every patriot has to commit sedition and wage war against the corrupt authority. Every thought against the unlawful demons of this country is a conspiracy. Indeed a black day for justice.

from:  Abhinav Upadhyay
Posted on: Dec 26, 2010 at 02:07 IST

Good..Dr.Sen has committed sedition by being with the disgusting, irritating poor tribals who are illegaly occupying vast stretches of forest beneath which lie huge amount of minerals for which Tatas, Ambanis, POSCO and Vedanta are legal owners. Dr Sen has committed the crime of not being with the state's policy of eliminating the poor rather than poverty to make the country a super power. Dr.Sen deserves a conviction more than Raja, Radia, Kalmadi, Satyam Raju because he wanted to help the poor. In this country of extremist capitalism, you can be only with the Government and this you can do simply by sticking to your job, getting your salary credited in time, watching TV which is controlled by capitalist saviours, enjoying holidays and aiming for a peaceful retired life. You should never dare to do something good for the people. You can never think about helping the poor, the voiceless, the suppressed and the exploited. Dr.Sen you should have happily let the tribals shift their lives from those stretches of wretched forest land to the blessed slums of our cities and work in constructing your newly booked apartment in a high rise. How dare you think good for them? You are certainly not in sync with our government and this conviction is apt in your case.

from:  aravind
Posted on: Dec 25, 2010 at 19:40 IST

This is an atrocious ruling by a judge who displays total lack of sense and fairness. What sense is there in giving a man a life term when the evidence against him was flimsy at best.. and at worst, it indicated criminal conspiracy by the Chattisgarh Police. I hope this judge is removed from his post.

from:  Prem
Posted on: Dec 25, 2010 at 16:33 IST

India shames itself before all the world's democrats looking to her to lead democracy in the 21st Century.

from:  Alan Millar
Posted on: Dec 25, 2010 at 12:16 IST

This verdict is shocking beyond words. All who value justice and judiciary's dignity need to raise their concern and voice.

from:  Kishore Saint
Posted on: Dec 25, 2010 at 06:35 IST

This saga is not going to end here obviously. I am sure the verdict will be appealed. If ever anyone needed an example, the theater we have witnessed shows us why the police and other officials are facing and losing the battles in Kashmir and elsewhere: because they embrace expediency and adopt lawless methods in their fight against crime and lawlessness. I am certain we are in for a very, very tough period of our history. The Govt. of Chattisgarh and its officials are very much in the same seat now as they were when the British Raj paid their salaries and only a few brave individuals dared to see themselves differently, not as 'government servants' , but as servants of the people. The displays of lack of insight, knowledge, courage and independence by the officials were a bane of citizens of British India then as they are of independent India now. Yet I feel almost sorry for the misfortune of the police, lawyers and judges and their political friends who have played their miserable roles in the Binayak Sen Chattisgarh saga - poorly trained, even more poorly paid, drawn from a society that lost its own cultural tradition of fierce adherence to principled Vedic ideals of truth, they have been dealt a terrible hand and inevitably almost involuntarily they have chosen values no different from the expedient and lawless values of the communists that they believe they are fighting.

from:  Bibhutibhushan
Posted on: Dec 25, 2010 at 02:53 IST

A perversion of justice. I am ashamed today to have been born in India. I hope and pray that things eventually turn out differently so that I can once again feel proud. This is not the India Gandhi and Nehru dreamed of. The judge was I am sure afraid for his own life and limbs and those of his family and of his possessions to have delivered any other judgment, living in a lawless state. Being Christmas Eve, I cannot but think of the words with which Francis Bacon begins his essay 'Of Truth': "What is truth?" said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer". Much like Pilate, in fear of the crowd outside, the judge in this case was clearly in fear of his own welfare at the hands of the thugs who constitute the government of Chhattisgarh. That is the most 'honorable' excuse one can find for him. An enormous shame and a blot on the escutcheon of India's legal system.

from:  Cyrus R. Kapadia
Posted on: Dec 25, 2010 at 01:09 IST

Some people are asking to punish Arundhati Roy on the same line. People are more interested in action movie. The courts should not create a role of an action movie director. They are there to decide the fate of country rather punishing to those who ask for justice and awarding to those who are communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scammer, looters, and rapists. At least, Indian court should deal Kalmadi and A.Raja as Terrorists who looted the nation.

from:  Ammar Das
Posted on: Dec 25, 2010 at 00:23 IST

How does questioning state atrocities, giving voice to people's grievances, providing support to exploited sections, establishing medical and other facilities for the marginalized, become an act of treason? This is precisely what Dr. Sen appears to have done. On the other side, those who have blatantly used political power and media clout in the 2G scam, and shamed the nation by siphoning off crores in the name of setting up facilities for the Commonwealth games are being treated with kid gloves. Should one think very hard before concluding who is really committing treason here: the Rajas, Dutts/ Singhvis, and Kalmadis, or the likes of Sen who reaffirm one's faith in human values and dignity without eroding courage and that too at great personal cost?

from:  Mahalakshmi
Posted on: Dec 24, 2010 at 23:48 IST

In this country Working with the revolutionary people to bring peace and development is a crime. If the government wants to settle problem of Naxalites or Maoists people like Dr. Binayak Sen, Pijush Guha, and Narayan Sanyal should be talked to and encouraged to bring settlement.The policy of this present Government shows how insincere they are.

from:  Sitaram
Posted on: Dec 24, 2010 at 23:45 IST

It is reported tht Mr S Kalmadi's house was raided after a very long period of silence and given long rope for him to get out of the problem and to discard all the availed evidences and records. As said by BJP it should not be an eyewash. Though it is a demoractic country nothing is moving like a democratic system and all behave like a dictators by circumventing the rules and regulations. Let god save the system and the country. One should be proud of being an Indian and not to be ashamed of being an Indian.

from:  Amar P GOunder
Posted on: Dec 24, 2010 at 23:44 IST
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