Rights groups claim vindication as Binayak Sen gets bail (Intro Roundup)May 25th, 2009 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi/Raipur, May 25 (IANS) It was a day of vindication for India’s human rights activists as Binayak Sen, a doctor imprisoned in the state of Chhattisgarh, was Monday granted bail by the Supreme Court after being held for more than two years on unproven charges of links with Maoists.
Binayak Sen, 59, an award-winning paediatrician and national vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), was jailed May 14, 2007, and accused of acting as a courier for a suspected Maoist extremist lodged in jail.
His case had became a cause celebre for human rights activists in India and across the world and members of the medical fraternity who had campaigned for months for his release. Doctors from the United States and other countries had petitioned the Indian government for his release, saying his detention was grossly unjust and a violation of human rights.
A Supreme Court vacation bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Deepak Verma granted Sen bail Monday in a matter of minutes. The bench granted bail to Sen even before his counsel, former union law minister Shanti Bhushan, began making his submissions pleading for bail.
The bench, did not allow even the counsel for the Chhattisgrah government, former Additional Solicitor General Mukul Rohtagi, to make his submission.
“Please sit down, I have already heard you,” remarked the bench twice every time Rohatgi wanted to make his submission.
The bench’s curt order granting bail to Sen prompted one of the civil rights activists to start clapping in the courtroom itself, but realizing her mistake, she immediately stopped.
In Raipur, Sen, who has shaved off his once flowing beard, thanked the people who worked for his release.
“I thank people around the world who supported me and worked for my bail,” Sen told reporters outside the district and sessions court room where he had arrived to attend a trial against him.
Sen had been lodged at the Raipur Central Jail under the stringent Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.
His wife Ilina Sen told IANS in Raipur, “I am extremely relieved that this ordeal of two years has finally ended. The judiciary has stood up for what is correct. He was held on trumped up charges.”
Santkumar Paswan, Chhattisgarh’s director general of police (jail), told IANS that it would take a couple of days for the jail authorities to receive the Supreme Court order granting bail.
“Once the order copy is received, Sen will be released,” Paswan said.
There was jubilation among the civil rights activists. “This is good news, but it is delayed by two years. Justice should have been done by granting him bail two years ago,” said Rajendra K. Sail, president of the Chhattisgarh PUCL.
Sen’s wife Ilina and daughter Pranhita flew in to Raipur from Mumbai as soon as the news of the court order came.
“I am overwhelmed at the decision of the Supreme Court and we thank people of the country, especially journalists, who have supported us in our fight,” said his brother Dipankar Sen.
Dipankar, a trader in the commodities market in Antwerp, Belgium, is currently in India and has been fighting for his brother’s freedom.
The state government has kept silent over the apex court’s decision. Earlier, it had opposed Sen’s plea to be treated for his heart ailment at his alma mater, the Christian Medical College in Vellore, Tamil Nadu.
Gautam Kumar Bandyopadhyay, a rights activist and convenor of NGO Nadi Ghati Morcha, described Binayak Sen’s bail as a “victory of human rights” in Chhattisgarh.
“It’s the victory of human rights in the state. Sen’s bail is a blow to the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which is targeting people who try and raise (their voice) against human rights violations in Chhattisgarh.”
On May 4, former law minister Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Binayak Sen, had contended that despite the case against him having been demolished in a trial court, the Chhattisgarh High Court was not entertaining his bail plea.
Sen’s younger daughter Aparajita, who is in Delhi, said she cannot wait for the “scattered family” of four to be united. A Class 12 student in Mumbai, she was in the capital Monday for a National School of Drama workshop.
“My mother, sister and I have spent the last two years in struggle and hoping…it was painful living without my father and knowing he was in jail,” she sighed.
“The family will finally be united,” she said.
The court has asked the state government to provide Sen, who is suffering from a heart ailment, the best possible treatment.