Tarique Anwar, BeyondHeadlines
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has granted bail to civil rights activist Binayak Sen, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sedition. An apex court bench comprising Justices H.S. Bedi and C.K. Prasad passed the order on the petition moved by Sen challenging the order of Chhattisgarh High Court denying him bail.
The court observed that there was no evidence against Sen and that “no case of sedition is made out. He is just a sympathizer, nothing beyond that. We are a democracy. Dr Sen may be a Maoist sympathizer, but that does not make out a case of sedition.” Justice Prasad inferred that the possession of Maoist literature could not be used to prove a person to be Naxal just as the possession of Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography would not prove one to be a Gandhian.
Sen, who is a vice-president of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), was accused of colluding with Maosists, was charged with sedition and was convicted. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chhattisgarh trial court.
On February 10, the High Court of the insurgency-driven sate of Chhattisgarh denied bail to Binayak Sen, a 61-year-old paediatrician and activist who was arrested in 2007 on charges of waging war against India.
Opposing Sen’s bail plea, the Chhattisgarh government in its affidavit had said that the activist should not be granted any relief as “he has deep links with hardcore Naxalites.”
The affidavit filed by the state government reads: “He (Sen) provides active support and co-ordinates in spreading the base of CPI-Maoist in the country. Apart from providing logistic support, he exchanges information and material directly and indirectly with the Naxalites in the area of Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa and propagates Naxal ideology.”
The state government contended that Sen helped in arranging accommodation for Naxal leaders in Raipur and through his wife Elina, he also helped in opening bank accounts of hardcore Naxalites Shankar Singh and Amita Shrivastava.
A professional doctor and a pass-out of Vellore’s prestigious Christian Medical College (CMC), Sen sought bail pleading that the trial court had erred in convicting him when there was no substantial evidence against him.
Sen’s conviction was criticised by his supporters and even some international human rights bodies; some even sought the government’s permission to observe court proceedings in the case.
Binayak Sen has worked for 25 years as a doctor with tribals in Chhattisgarh. He criticised Salwa Judum for rights violations and misuse of powers. He was also a member of State Committee on Health Sector Reforms.