Binayak Sen

Internet as a medium, certainly helps in information sharing, and sometimes this sharing business could be critical. I only wish this world-wide-web existed during the times and tribulations of the organizers of the likes of Shankar Guha Niyogi.  Probably this could have helped Shankar – at least to the extent that he may not have been murdered… Thinking of it, all I did after I heard of his murder (in 1991) was to write an emotionally charged and looong obituary in a ‘little’ Tamil journal.

I don’t want to be an active armed-chair member of that brigade of ‘Ratan Tata is killing turtles, send him an email and spam him continuously so that he gives up his idea’ that abounds these days. Nor do I want to be an active human rights advocate – a rant against these types (some of them are of course genuine) can be found here – foreign aid (for NGOs) considered harmful – which you read at your peril.

But, this is about Dr Binayak Sen – who happens to be one fine fellow, caught between the ruthless armed thugs, some of whom call themselves naxalites and a vengeful/unfeeling administrative mechanism. Hope he doesn’t fall by the wayside.

I have reproduced verbatim, a plea from V R Krishna Iyer, that was published by ‘The Hindu.’ The objective of this post is to make us think about the issue and not to send a mail to a Ratan Tata or to the Chattisgarh State Government.

I fervently wish Dr Sen gets back to his constructive work soon.

Krishna Iyer’s plea on behalf of Binayak Sen

The text of a letter written by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, former Supreme Court Judge, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, dated April 17, 2009:

 I would like to bring to your attention a case of grave injustice which is a cause of much shame to Indian democracy: that of Dr. Binayak Sen, the well known paediatrician and defender of human rights.

This good doctor has been incarcerated in a Raipur jail for nearly two years now under the Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act, 2005. Among the charges against Dr. Sen, who is renowned worldwide for his public health work among the rural poor, are “treason and waging war against the state.”

Chhattisgarh State prosecutors claim that Binayak, as part of an unproven conspiracy, passed on a set of letters from Narayan Sanyal, a senior Maoist leader who is in the Raipur jail, to Piyush Guha, a local businessman with allegedly close links to the left-wing extremists. He was supposed to have done this while visiting Sanyal in prison both in his capacity as a human rights activist and as a doctor treating him for various medical ailments.

The trial of Dr. Sen, which began in a Raipur Sessions Court late April 2008, has, however, not thrown up even a shred of evidence to justify any of these charges against him. By March 2009, of the 83 witnesses listed for deposition by the prosecution as part of the original charge-sheet, 16 were dropped by the prosecutors themselves and six declared ‘hostile’, while 61 others have deposed without corroborating any of the accusations against Dr. Sen. Irrespective of the merits of the case against Dr. Sen, there are very disturbing aspects to the way the trial process has been carried out so far.

As if all this were not enough, Dr. Sen has also been repeatedly denied bail by the Bilaspur High Court (in September 2007 and December 2008). And the Supreme Court of India rejected his special leave petition to have the bail application heard before it (in December 2007).

Given the paucity of evidence in the trial of Dr. Sen so far, in all fairness the Raipur court should have dismissed the case against him altogether by now. Certainly the weakness of the prosecution’s position should entitle him to at least grant of bail. Dr. Sen is a person of international standing and reputation, with a record of impeccable behaviour throughout his distinguished career. In May 2008, in an unprecedented move 22 Nobel Prize winners even signed a public statement calling him a ‘professional colleague’ and asking for his release.

Normally bail is refused only in cases where courts believe an accused can tamper with evidence, prejudice witnesses or run away. In Dr. Sen’s case none of these apply, as shown by the simple fact that at the time of his arrest he chose to come to the Chhattisgarh police voluntarily and made no attempt to abscond despite knowing about his possible detention.

Today Dr. Sen, a diabetic who is also hypertensive, is himself in urgent need of medical treatment for his deteriorating heart condition. In recent weeks his health has worsened and a doctor appointed by the court to examine him recommended that he be transferred to Vellore for an angiography and perhaps, if needed, an angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft without further delay.

Instead of recognising their social contributions, the Indian state, by wrongly branding Dr. Sen and many other human rights defenders like him as ‘terrorists’, is making a complete mockery of not just democratic norms and fair governance but its entire anti-terrorist strategy and operations.

The repeated denial of bail which results in ‘punishment by trial’ constitutes an even graver threat to Indian society. The sheer injustice involved will only breed cynicism among ordinary citizens about the credibility and efficacy of Indian democracy itself.

The above article off:

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  • G.Muniraj  On April 27, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Dr.Sen’s case is really sad. But other accounts do not completely exonerate Dr.Sen. The police, who are directly in the line of naxalite fire and who often know the correct facts , strongly belive he is a symapathiser. The justice system of our land, of which V.R.Krishna Iyer himself was a part, is corrupt, immoral and inefficen for the most part which often allows honest police work go down the drain and let criminals go scot free.

    Hence police and adminsitrations take recourse to devious methods including encounter killings. I donot justify it though.

    Consider what was happening in Banglore untill recently. Everyday we were reading one or two rowdies chased down the streets in broad day light and hacked to death in full public view. The culprits would be caught, sent to jail and they come out in 2 years courtesy colluding judges and lawyers, free to murder and maim again.

    So some time last month the police arrested a prime suspect in one such case and shot him in cold blood in an ‘encounter’. The killings came down dramatically. Human right activists , this time around, maintained deafening silence.

    Ponder this.

    Also it is delightful to see judiciary luminaries such as krsihna Iyers writing wonderfully critical articles of the system once they are retired!

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