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EU team allowed to attend Binayak appeal hearing

File photo of rights activist Binayak Sen. A Division Bench of the Chhattisgrah High Court has begun hearing Dr. Sen’s appeal against the life sentence awarded to him in a sedition case.  

A delegation of European Union observers was on Monday allowed by the Chhattisgrah High Court to witness proceedings on rights activist Binayak Sen’s appeal against his life term in a sedition case, which his lawyer and Bharatiya Janata Party MP Ram Jethmalani termed as “political persecution“.

When Dr. Sen’s appeal came up for hearing, a division bench comprising justices T.P. Sharma and R.L. Jhanwar, considered the reference on the EU proposal made to it by the State government and decided to allow the eight-member team to attend the proceedings.

The request of the EU to be present in the court had earlier been sent by the Ministry of External Affairs to the Chhattisgarh government, which had in turn, referred the matter to the High Court.

Appearing for the 61-year-old Dr. Sen, who has been sentenced by a sessions court to life imprisonment for colluding with Maoists to establish a network to fight the state, Mr. Jethmalani told the High Court, “My client is absolutely innocent. There is no case.

“The whole case is nothing but political persecution and legally it is a case of no evidence, not merely bad evidence, but no evidence,” Mr. Jethmalani, a Rajya Sabha BJP MP, submitted.

On the charge that Dr. Sen had carried as a courier a letter from jailed Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal to underground Maoists, he said, “They (the prosecution) planted one document... otherwise there is no other document that implicates him. So, this is a useless case (and) government should withdraw it.”

Mr. Jethmalani contended that Dr. Sen, along with Mr. Sanyal and Kolkata-businessmen Piyush Guha had also been convicted under the tough Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, a law which, he said, was already under challenge by human rights activists in the High Court.

He said Dr. Sen, a paediatrician by profession, had met Mr. Sanyal 32 times in Raipur Jail and once in Bilaspur Jail to advise the Naxalite ideologue, now 67, on medical issues.

While Mr. Jethmalani was assisted by two other lawyers — Mahendra Dubey and Surendra Singh — who also appeared for Dr. Sen. Mr. Dubey also represented 35-year-old Mr. Guha.

On Dr. Sen’s wife Ilina Sen’s statement that her husband was paying a price for being a vocal critic of the policies of the State government, Mr. Jethmalani told reporters outside the court, “That is a very valid defence considering facts of the case.”

On he, despite being a BJP MP, appearing for Dr. Sen, the senior lawyer said, “I am not a senior BJP leader. I am only a member of BJP. I don’t see it as a conflict of interest in any case. Everybody knows I am bound by the rules of professional conduct and etiquette.

“We have a statutory rule that no lawyer should refuse to defend a person on the ground that he is unpopular,” he said, adding that he was appearing for free.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 1:14:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/EU-team-allowed-to-attend-Binayak-appeal-hearing/article15531774.ece

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