On Friday, December 24, 2010, a trial court in Chhattisgarh found Dr. Binayak Sen and two others guilty of criminal conspiracy to commit sedition under Section 124(a) read with Section 20 (b) of the Indian Penal Code, and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The trial judge, B.P. Verma, also found the three men guilty of charges under other emergency laws in his judgment (in Hindi, available here). The judgment has been met with outrage, and several newspapers and public intellectuals have offered their take on the deficiencies of its reasoning. (Several of these are available on the excellent and regularly updated website of the Free Binayak Sen Campaign).
We have covered the twists and turns of Dr. Sen’s travails intermittently (some of these posts are available here), but it is clear that the case merits sustained and committed attention.
Here are links to some particularly insightful early critiques and analyses:
1) Jyoti Punjwani, a journalist and rights activist, has a piece titled “The Trial of Binayak Sen” in the latest issue of the EPW (Dec 25, 2010). Written before the trial court’s judgment came out, the article details “discrepancies and contradictions on material points” in the evidence offered by the prosecution in the trial. (Here is another link to this excellent article that will remain in the public domain).
2) Ilinia Sen, Sudha Bharadwaj and Kavita Srinivas offer a detailed analysis of the content and logic of the trial court’s judgment, focusing on its most acute problems.
3) Shiv Vishwanath’s open letter to the Prime Minister is one of several campaigns that seek to highlight the extreme injustices involved in the case. (Hat tip: Kafila, which is closely following reactions to the case).
4) And finally, Dr. Binayak Sen’s ‘Final Statement’ to the trial court, where he makes a compelling case in his own words.
Some commentators have expressed hope that the Indian higher judiciary’s record on human rights cases will make this an easy case to be overturned on appeal. However, as close followers of the Indian higher judiciary’s record on emergency powers know, that record is quite a mixed one, making this far from an easy case. In cases like these, sustained civic action can remind the courts of the importance of their role as guardians of the constitution.