Monday, January 10, 2011

Demand for Release of Dr. Binayak Sen

On 24 December 2010, the Additional Sessions and District Court Judge, Raipur found Dr. Binayak Sen, the Vice-President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, guilty of sedition for aiding the Maoists in their fight against the state under Sections  120 read with  Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 6(1), 8(2), 8(3) and 8(5) of the 6(1) of Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam, 2005 and Section 9(2) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and was sentenced to life imprisonment Immediately after the sentencing, Dr. Sen's bail was revoked and he was taken back into custody.
What is worth noting here is that the evidences present before the Judges were, by no stretch of imagination conclusive enough to prove his conviction. Unfortunately, the Judges did not give any credence to the insufficiency of evidence in the matter while awarding him with the sentence. A cursory glance at the text of the Judgment, as has been provided below in  Hindi and its corresponding translation in English, is sufficient to prove this surprising disregard for and unwillingness to accept the value of evidence in a criminal trial:

Now Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which makes right to life and personal liberty a fundamental right, lays down, and quite clearly so, that no person can be deprived of his right to life and personal liberty except in accordance with law. For a Judgment which does not take the value of evidence into account even for a trial involving such a cognizable criminal offence as sedition, the constitutionality of the Judgment deserves to be questioned.    

What is more unfortunate is that blatant disregard for basic rights, as is reflected in the Judgment, has been going on for years since “independence”.  What we have here is a situation in which a prominent human rights activist who has dedicated his life towards the cause of helping the tribal people of our country lead a better life has been brutally suppressed. Such suppression of dissident voices by the powers-that-be goes against the very fabric of democracy. It is worth noting that in the given issue the Government has paid no heed even to the severe criticism of this Judgment and the demand for release of Dr. Binayak Sen, as has been made time and again by international institutions like Amnesty International, the British Medical Association, and even the British House of Commons and also by several leading human rights activists and international personalities including Amartya Sen and Noam Chomsky. Such attitude taken by the Government reeks of adamancy and does not augur well for a democracy with Constitution which upholds the right of individuals to live with dignity as “Fundamental Right”. Even a surreptitious nexus between the legislature and the judiciary on the matter of making an “example” out of Dr. Binayak Sen can not be ruled out of suspicion. Separation of powers between the the legislature, the judiciary and the executive is considered as one of the basic aspects of any constitutional democracy, and such liaison between the legislature and the judiciary is tremendously harmful for such democracy.

This gross violation of law and of human rights needs to be protested in the strongest of words, and every citizen has the right to make such protest. The need of the hour is for the citizens to unite and raise their voices in unison against this because what has happened and is happening here is harmful for the cause of democracy and human rights. We, as representatives of the students of Kolkata, do hereby condemn the treatment meted out to Dr. Sen by the State. We seek support and solidarity from all of you regarding this matter.   

Proceedings with regards to appeal against this verdict shall start in the High Court of  Chhatisgarh on and from the 23rd of January, 2011. On behalf of all the college and university students from Kolkata, we do hereby request the Hon’ble Court to see to it that the conviction of Dr. Sen be set aside, for such, we believe, will not only meet the ends of justice, equality and good conscience, but would also go a long way in helping the cause of human rights of our country.

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