I had no intention of writing something on the blog this soon after the last post. Something’s happened, however, that I’ve tried to not get worked up about, and failed – miserably. Apart from being a one-off then, this post is also going to be an outpouring. I apologise if it isn’t as well-written as it can be.
A court in Raipur convicted Dr. Binayak Sen of treason and sentenced him to life in prison. The doctor, a gold medallist at CMC Vellore, and a paediatrician who works to provide healthcare to people in the least developed parts of Chattisgarh, and who is also the Vice-President of the PUCL, was charged with treason for carrying messages from a naxal leader to the maoists. That the charges are completely bogus would be an understatement. That Binayak Sen is being hounded by a police state that wants to enforce the draconian act that is the inland version of the AFSPA is plain for everybody to see.
And see it people do.
Former CJIs AM Ahmadi and VN Khare have said the verdict is stupid, in so many words. Amnesty International has called the verdict a dangerous precedent. The point that ‘sedition’ or, as one reporter and apparently the judge who handed down the verdict put it, ‘rajdroh’ is a relic from a different age at best, violates the freedom of speech that the constitution purports to guarantee, and is used whenever convenient has also been made.
The doctor’s statement before the court is a hallmark of his – and I could not mean this more of anybody else – nobleness.
And then this happens: the Union Minister for Law, Veerappa Moily, chastises the former judges who expressed concerns about the sentence meted out to Binayak Sen. The minister’s argument:
[…]such utterances could influence the judiciary and create “confusion” […] one must “bow down” before the verdict unless it is set aside by a higher court. […] Persons who have held very responsible position in the judiciary, they will have to consider that their statements can tomorrow influence the mind of a judge or a magistrate. He will think that a former judge of a High Court or the Supreme Court or a chief justice is commenting upon this, then should I give a judgement. To that extent, it may influence the independent mind of a judge, which will not be fair. It will not be just[.]
It will not be ‘just’ that people speak out against a judgement that is not only brutal, but also lacking legal merit. At least until a higher court sets aside the verdict. Because these pesky people who point out the umpteen number of ways the judgement is stupid might make a better judge realise exactly how stupid the judgement is. How can that be allowed?
And, just to be sure, this business in jurisprudence of consulting the opinions of former judges on similar cases? It’s called legal precedent. Maybe the minister should look it up.
Oh, and if the higher court happens to cite “the collective conscience of the society” that “will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender”, tough luck, I guess. We wouldn’t want to unjustly and unfairly influence the legal process, would we?