Monday, December 27, 2010

Dr. JP calls for quick appeal hearing of Dr. Binayak Sen's sentence

Lok Satta Party today said that the life sentence meted out by a Chhatisgarh court to Dr Binayak Sen has exposed some of the weaknesses in the country's justice system, and called upon the higher judiciary to rapidly take up the case on appeal.

In a statement issued today Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, Lok Satta Party's National President, said that "In any democracy, the liberty of citizens is among the most cherished rights, next only to life itself. Therefore, the State must exercise great caution before depriving someone of this right, ensuring that only those who are truly a threat to the nation are incarcerated. In Dr Sen's case, there appears to be plenty of doubt whether he poses any such threat."

"In most people's eyes," noted Dr. JP, "equating Dr Sen's humanitarian actions with acts of sedition or violence by Maoists are patently untenable given the doctor's stellar record of service to the poor, and the equally indefensible record of governments in strong-arming those who opposed its policies and actions."

Dr JP acknowledged that Chhatisgarh, like any other State, has a responsibility to take action against individuals who are a threat to public good, but in doing so it must not only act fairly, but also be seen as acting fairly. In Dr Sen's case, this second test has not been successfully passed by the court that convicted him, and this is the reason why there is so much anguish over the judgment.

"The wide-spread dissatisfaction with the court's verdict among human rights and welfare organisations in India and even around the world must be taken to heart. This outpouring of support for Dr Sen must give us pause to ask if the verdict may have overlooked something. It is no small feat for any individual to win the hearts and minds of so many different groups, across the country, over many decades. And history has repeatedly shown that people who earn such trust and respect are often on the side of justice, no matter what their governments might like the public to believe."

"In India," he added, "we live under a system of law in which the courts too play an important role in safeguarding rights. The higher courts must now quickly step in to review Dr Sen's conviction, and carry out a trial which is of a much higher standard, and also seen to be so. The world's largest democracy has a responsibility to strive to also lead the world in the quality of its system of justice.

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