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Binayak Sen sentenced to life in jail for sedition

Court also found Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal guilty of waging war against India.

Written by Joseph John | Raipur |
December 24, 2010 1:18:10 pm

Rights activist Binayak Sen,Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal and Kolkata businessman Piyush Guha were sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday after a Raipur court found them guilty of sedition.

They were charged with sedition for helping Maoists in their fight against the state.

Additional District and Sessions Judge B P Verma held the trio guilty under sections 124 (sedition),120 B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal code and other sections of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Septuagenarian Narayan Sanyal is said to be a top Maoist ideologue while Piyush Guha is a Kolkata based businessman in his early 30s.

Binayak Sen,who was out on bail,was arrested immediately after the court delivered its order.

After the judgement,Sen’s brother Dipankar Sen said: “I have lost my voice. Please leave me alone.” His wife Elina sat on the stairs of the court building and spoke to the media. She said: “I disagree with the court’s decision. There are no evidences for such a decision. We will certainly appeal this judgement.”

Terming the verdict as “completely irrational”,she said,”Not a single piece of evidence came up to support this kind of conviction — sedition and conspiracy against the state. I hope justice will prevail.”

Dr Binayak Sen,a pediatrician by profession,was the national vice-president of Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) when he was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police in mid May 2007 under provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005. This act is being dubbed as draconian by rights activists. His arrest and incarceration triggered protests from human rights organisations and other activists worldwide with his supporters alleging the doctor was held on trumped up charges as he had criticised the state government on many issues,including alleged violation of human rights in tribal areas. His bail applications were rejected by the lower court and high court and he had to spend two years in jail till the Supreme Court granted him bail on May 25,2009.

During the course of arguments,Special Public Prosecutor,T C Pandya,argued that Sen had met alleged Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal in jail 33 times between May 26 and June 30,2007,carrying away seditious letters and passing them to Piyush Guha. The prosecution had contended that Sen was part of an effort to establish an urban network of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist),drawing inferences over circumstances,arguing there could not be direct evidence for conspiracy.

However,defense counsel Surinder Singh,citing Supreme Court judgements,had pointed out: “There is no doubt that conviction can be based on circumstantial evidence but in cases where evidence is circumstantial in nature… all facts need to be consistent with hypothesis… and no alternative hypothesis should be possible.”

The prosecution had also contended the police seized a letter,purportedly written by Maoists to Sen,from his house and it was evident from its contents that Sen was not just in correspondence with the rebels,he even acted on their behalf. But the defence dismissed these arguments claiming the letter was planted by the police.

Regarding the prosecution’s contention that Binayak Sen had met Narayan Sanyal 33 times in jail,Sen’s lawyers argued that he visited Sanyal on his brother’s request,applying on a PUCL letterhead each time and getting clearances from jail authorities and police officers.

The meetings took place in the jailor’s room and every time they spoke in Hindi so that every word could be heard and understood by the supervising officer. “In such a situation,there is no room for conspiracy or passing letters,” his lawyers argued.

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