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Justice for Binayak Sen

by Dr. (Fr.) Ambrose Pinto SJ, 29 December 2010

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Deccan Herald, 29 December 2010

As a concerned doctor, his is a life at the service of the poor and the downtrodden.

There never has been such an uproar over the justice system as against the verdict of Binayak Sen in recent years in the country. Not only civil society groups, eminent intellectuals, members of the judiciary and international organisations have expressed disgust at the verdict to imprison Binayak Sen to life by the Raipur sessions court on sedition and waging war against the Indian state.

Those who have covered the story of Dr Sen have reacted with utmost horror at the sheer injustice of the judgment. Such low quality of justice, routinely delivered in our courts, is indeed a threat to Indian democracy. It is a pity that the judicial system has not been able to uphold principles of law and justice.

Flawed judgments like the one delivered on Dr Sen are likely to further undermine the credibility and reputation of the judiciary. From university campuses to newspaper offices to middle class homes and power corridors across India, this is a judgment which is seen to be clearly destroying the last edifice of the public perception of the Indian justice system.

Service

Dr Sen is a professor at the prestigious Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore. As a concerned doctor, his is a life at the service of the poor and the downtrodden. Since he worked among the Maoist infected regions of Chhattisgarh which is a home for the impoverished tribals, he has been accused of de-stabilising the Indian state in nexus with the Maoists.

When he was imprisoned from May 2007 to May 2009, at least 22 Noble prize winners from all over the world had sought his immediate freedom lauding his exemplary work in providing the best of treatment to the impoverished adivasis. Distinguished artists, academics, filmmakers and writers had campaigned and petitioned for his freedom. Students from across India and the world had organised protests, campaigns and concerts demanding freedom for the compassionate doctor. He was released on bail by the supreme court as a result of a massive civil society campaigns.

The session court has once again given him a sentence of life imprisonment. The verdict is perceived as unjust to be handed out to one of India’s finest social activists. The charges against Dr Sen, of allegedly aiding outlawed Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh, have not been corroborated by any of the witnesses or evidence produced in the court.

The prosecution had failed miserably to show any evidence linking the highly respected paediatrician and human rights activist to a Maoist conspiracy. Friends who know Dr Sen and his work hold that the charges are trumped up and intended to punish him for his outspoken criticism of the Chhattisgarh government run by he BJP for its human rights violations against its own tribal population. The Chhattisgarh government has also persecuted other human rights activists for their role in exposing the real character of the Salwa Judum and other human rights violations.

The prosecution is mala fide, no doubt. In fact it is a persecution. He has been made a scapegoat by the state government of Chhattisgarh as a warning to others not to expose the patent trampling of human rights taking place in the state. Documents have been fabricated by the police and false witnesses introduced in order to falsely implicate. His conviction is one more example of the state succeeding in securing the conviction of an innocent person on the basis of false evidence.

While campaigns for his release have already begun across the nation and outside, this time, it should be an occasion for the nation to demand drastic reform of the criminal justice system to ensure that it is not manipulated by the state to persecute, prosecute and victimise innocent persons. There needs to be some action on all those who pass judgments without sufficient evidence so that the good and the honest are not made to frequent prisons and jails.

One thing is to ask for the release of Dr Sen. At the level of appeal that is bound to take place. Shouldn’t there be a thorough inquiry against all those who have framed him so maliciously and given him the verdict without right and proper evidence?

There is also a need to compensate Dr Sen for being deprived of his basic freedoms and to his family for being subjected to the most inhumane mental torture and persecution. As citizens it is wrong to allow the justice system to be attacked by vested interest forces to further their designs.

(The writer is the principal of St Joseph’s College, Bangalore)

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