Bilaspur: A delegation of European Union
observers was today allowed by the Chhattisgarh High Court to
witness proceedings on rights activist Binayak Sen`s appeal
against his life term in a sedition case, which his lawyer and
BJP MP Ram Jethmalani termed as "political persecution".
When Sen`s appeal came up for hearing, a division bench
comprising justices T P Sharma and R L Jhanwar, considered the
reference on the EU proposal made to it by the state
government and decided to allow the eight-member team to
attend the proceedings.
The request of the EU to be present in the court had
earlier been sent by the External Affairs Ministry to the
Chhattisgarh government, which had in turn, referred the
matter to the High Court.
Appearing for 61-year-old Sen, who has been sentenced by a
sessions court to life imprisonment for colluding with Maoists
to establish a network to fight the state, Jethmalani told the
High Court, "My client is absolutely innocent. There is no
"The whole case is nothing but political persecution and
legally it is a case of no evidence, not merely bad evidence,
but no evidence," Jethmalani, a Rajya Sabha BJP MP, submitted.
On the charge that Sen had carried as a courier a letter
from jailed Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal to underground
Maoists, he said, "They (prosecution) planted one document ...
otherwise there is no other document that implicates him. So,
this is a useless case (and) government should withdraw it."
Jethmalani contended that Sen, along with Sanyal and
Kolkata-businessmen Piyush Guha had also been convicted under
the tough Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, a law
which, he said, was already under challenge by human rights
activists in the High Court.
He said Sen, a doctor by profession, had met Sanyal 32
times in Raipur Jail and once in Bilaspur Jail to advise the
Naxalite ideologue, now 67, on medical issues.
While Jethmalani was assisted by two other lawyers -
Mahendra Dubey and Surendra Singh - who also appeared for Sen,
Dubey also represented 35-year-old Guha.
On Sen`s wife Ilina`s statement that her husband was
paying a price for being a vocal critic of the policies of the
state government, Jethmalani told reporters outside the court,
"That is a very valid defence considering facts of the case."
On he, despite being a BJP MP, appearing for Sen, the
senior lawyer said, "I am not a senior BJP leader. I am only a
member of BJP. I don`t see it as a conflict of interest in any
case. Everybody knows I am bound by the rules of professional
conduct and etiquette.
"We have a statutory rule that no lawyer should refuse to
defend a person on the ground that he is unpopular," he said,
adding that he was appearing for free.
The arguments on Sen`s bail application will continue in
the High Court tomorrow. Additional Advocate General Kishore
Bhaduri represented the Chhattisgarh government.
Appealing to the court to enlarge Sen on bail, Jethmalani
said members of the PUCL, of which his client was an active
member, had in the past communicated with each other through
letters. "It is a not a crime to write a letter," he said.
Earlier, activists of BJP`s students` wing ABVP protested
against the EU team`s visit and appearance of Jethmalani for
Sen and showed black flags, prompting the authorities to step
The EU had earlier informed the MEA that it intended to
send representatives from its Delhi-based missions of Belgium,
Denmark, Germany, France, Hungary, Sweden, the UK, and the EU,
to attend the court hearing.
The EU, in a statement, had also expressed to the Indian
authorities its concern about the conditions pertaining to the
detention of Sen.
Additional District and Sessions Judge B P Verma had on
December 24 last held the trio guilty under sections 124 A
(sedition) and 120 B (conspiracy) of IPC and provisions of
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Chhattisgarh Special
Public Security Act.
Sen was arrested on May 14, 2007 from Bilaspur and was
in jail for two years before being granted bail by the Supreme
Court in May last year. Sen was sent back to prison after
Sanyal arrested in Khammam in Andhra Pradesh in January
2006, while Guha was nabbed a year later in May.
Officials in Raipur had said yesterday that the Centre has
not issued any directive to the state government on the EU
Additional Advocate General Bhaduri had said permission of
the court has to be taken to allow presence of foreign
nationals at the hearing.
State BJP vice-president Sachhidanand, who is also a
lawyer, has criticised the request of the EU saying it was
trying the "interfere" in the due process.