New Delhi: In a major setback to the government, the Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to the civil rights activists Binayak Sen, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for sedition and links with Naxalites.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices HS Bedi and CK Prasad, while hearing the bail petition moved by Sen, said that showing sympathy with the Maoists is no ground to convict him and put him in jail.
The apex court said it was giving no reason for granting bail to 61-year-old Sen and left it to the satisfaction of the trial court concerned to impose the conditions for his release on bail.
The apex court also quashed the arguments made by the central government opposing his bail and maintained that it could not produce enough evidence to detain him any further. The apex court also rejected sedition claims made by the central government against Dr Sen, while adding that the possession of Maoists literature does not prove Sen’s involvement in Naxal activities.
“If Gandhian literature is found in my house does that mean I am a Gandhian,” Justice HS Bedi said while countering the argument of the government. The apex court also opined that there could be many like Sen who sympathise with Naxals.
"We are a democratic country. He may be a sympathiser (of Naxalites) but it did not make him guilty of sedition. He is a sympathiser. Nothing beyond that," the bench stated, while perusing the affidavit filed by the Chhattisgarh government opposing his bail.
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Sen, submitted in his affidavit that the state has been unable to
point out misconduct on his part. The bench also said that all the statements made by the state has no relevance.
It said other documents and evidences produced by the state government including that he met co-accused Piyush Guha 30 times in a jail and pamphlets and documents relating to Maoist activities were recovered from his possession did not
mean that he was involved in seditious activities.
However, senior advocate U U Lalit, appearing for the state government, said that no case is made out for the bail
and submitted that the activities of Sen have to be seen in a broader perspective.
When the bench asked him whether his activities in any way connect to the offence of sedition, Lalit said, "My case
has been accepted by the trial court and the apex court has only to consider whether he can be granted bail or not."
The Supreme Court passed it order while hearing a bail petition moved by Sen challenging the order of Chhattisgarh High Court, which had rejected his bail plea on February 10.
In his bail plea, the 61-year old civil rights worker had contended that the trial court erred in convicting him when there was no substantial evidence against him.
Opposing Sen`s bail plea, the Chhatisgarh government filed an affidavit saying Sen has deep links with hardcore Naxalites.
I am relieved: Ilina Sen
Today’s development has come as a big relief for the supporters of Binaya Sen and his family members, who have been passing through a difficult phase of their lives since his arrest.
Reacting to it Ilina Sen said, “I am very relieved, I am truly delighted. I have still not comeback to normal. I am trying to believe that our four month long nightmare is over now. Since the matter is sub-judice, I would not like to comment on it but quite relxed with the apex court’s ruling in the case.”
Sen is at present lodged in a jail in Chhattisgarh capital Raipur after he was sentenced by a trial court there on December 24, 2010 for sedition and for his links with Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal and Kolkata-based businessman Piyush Guha. Both of them have also been awarded life terms.
Sen was accused of acting as a courier between Sanyal and Guha.
The trial court verdict against Sen, 61, was widely slammed by human rights activists in India and abroad, who say he was victimised by Chhattisgarh`s Bharatiya Janata Party government for highlighting human rights abuses.
Slamming the Chhattisgarh court`s judgement, Amnesty International had said, "Sen has been convicted under laws that are impermissibly vague and fall well short of international standards for criminal prosecution. State and federal authorities in India should immediately drop these politically motivated charges and release him."
Eminent citizens have also come out in support of Sen. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has also criticised the judgement, saying the Chhattisgarh government was not able to come up with any solid evidence to prove it is a case against Sen.