Friends, family members and Union Ministers on Friday hailed the Supreme Court order granting bail to rights activist Binayak Sen, with his lawyer Ram Jethmalani saying the verdict was an endorsement of the right to freedom of speech as “a principle of democracy.”

Union Minister Salman Khurshid expressed happiness over the court decision to release Dr. Sen, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sedition by a Chhattisgarh Court for helping Naxals set up a network, while Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily termed it an “eye opener” for the State government.

“Satyameva jayete' [truth alone triumphs].... My faith in the judicial system is restored,” said Dr. Sen's ailing mother Anasuya, 84, in West Bengal's Nadia district, pointing that the verdict coincided with the Bengali New Year.

Describing her son as “a Gandhian,” she said Dr. Sen “never believed in violence.”

“Our family was all shattered but now we are all very happy. I'm looking forward to go to Chhattisgarh and meet my father,” said Aparajita, his daughter.

Mr. Jethmalani said: “I must confess this is one of the cases where I am personally very happy about what has happened in the Supreme Court.

“It almost establishes a matter of great principle of democracy that everybody has the right to exercise his right to freedom of speech.

“Sen is not involved in any kind of violence nor has he fed anyone to resort to violence… Literature is available at everybody's home and I'll tell you there is much more dangerous literature at my house.

“Politicians must understand these things but it is unfortunate that they don't,” said Jethmalani emphasising that mere possession of literature did not make one Maoist.

Echoing his views, Dr. Sen's wife Ilina cited the observation by one of the judges on the bench that mere possession of Gandhian literature does not make one a Gandhian.

“I thank the judges who commented that finding works of Gandhiji with someone does not make the person a Gandhian.” said Ms. Ilina, adding that she felt extremely relieved after the apex court order.

Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said: “It is an eye-opener. The Chhattisgarh government should have applied its mind objectively and properly without any prejudices. And when the case is in the highest court of the country, it is all the more reasons to be more careful.”

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said his government “respects” the court decision.

“The Supreme Court has only granted him the bail. The pending legal process will continue in the High Court at Bilaspur.

“Whatever the final verdict be, we will respect that decision too,” the Chief Minister of the BJP-ruled State said.

CPI leader D. Raja demanded that the State government withdraw the cases “foisted” on Dr. Sen. He claimed that a number of his party leaders and cadres were in prison in Chhattisgarh and demanded their immediate release.

Chidambaram happy

Special Correspondent reports:

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram expressed happiness with the Supreme Court order.

“I am happy to know that Binayak Sen has got bail from the Supreme Court. I have always believed that if one is not satisfied with a lower court order, one can get reprieve by approaching a higher court,” he told journalists here on Friday.

After Dr. Sen was convicted, Mr. Chidambaram stated that the trial court's judgment might be unsatisfactory to many persons, but the only way to “correct” it was through an appeal.

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