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Two years on

Binayak Sen’s continuing incarceration is shameful; he must be given bail now

Written by The Indian Express |
May 14, 2009 11:24:29 pm

On May 14,2007,China launched a Nigerian satellite,Roger Federer chose not to replace his coach before the French Open,and a frail,bearded doctor was arrested in Chhattisgarh. Today,two years on,Binayak Sen,charged with helping Naxalites,still remains in jail-without-bail while his trial plods along in Raipur.

To deny an undertrial bail for this long is serious business — remember,he is still innocent unless proven guilty. If,after a long-winded trial,Sen is acquitted,who is to repay him his two years? Which is why bail is usually given as a matter of right,unless the applicant is likely to influence witnesses or tamper with evidence. But since the prime witnesses have already deposed and the evidence already placed before court,there is no havoc left for Binayak Sen to wreak. He can of course run away and evade the long arm of the law. But when you’ve chosen to devote your life to providing health care to the poor,and when 22 Nobel laureates,a host of Indian MPs,and prominent citizens vouch for your character,what more certification does the court need? Binayak Sen’s second bail petition has recently been admitted by the Supreme Court,and is scheduled to be heard this Friday. It is hoped that justice prevails.

With Naxalism posing a serious threat to India’s sovereignty,the state is quite right to respond in earnest. But Binayak Sen’s travails actualise the fears that critics and other irritants will be disposed of under the guise of counter-insurgency. As long as Sen remains in jail-without-bail,every state action against Naxals remains suspect — is it genuine vigilance,or mere bloody-mindedness? Binayak Sen’s supporters also point to the “draconian” nature of Chhattisgarh’s “war against Naxals”. That can be debated some time else,some place else. Right now,Binayak Sen,his heart failing,asks us two simple legal questions: Am I guilty under the law of the land? And should I get bail? Those answers were always loud and clear. Two painful years on,they have only got louder.

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