Saturday, December 25, 2010

Testimony of a merchant sealed Binayak Sen's fate

RAIPUR: The testimony of a cloth merchant appears to have sealed the case against Binayak Sen, the doctor and civil rights activist sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of criminal conspiracy and sedition. Sen had been accused of passing seditious letters from jailed Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal to Piyush Guha, a Kolkata businessman. Both Sanyal and Guha were handed down life terms along with Sen. A close reading of the 92-page order in Hindi shows that sessions court judge B P Varma largely relied on cloth merchant Anil Kumar Singh's testimony to prove that Sen acted as a courier of seditious letters.

Singh is the sole independent witness produced by the prosecution to corroborate Guha's arrest and subsequent seizure of three incriminating letters from his bag by the police. Laying special emphasis on his testimony, the judge observes: "As far as the question concerning the involvement of accused Binayak Sen in Naxal activities, witness Anil Kumar Singh has testified that when accused Piyush Guha was asked during the seizure where he got the letters from, he said Dr Binayak Sen used to visit Narayan Sanyal in jail, and the letters were given to him then." Singh claimed he had heard Guha confess that Sen had handed him Sanyal's letters and asked him to carry them to Kolkata.

During the trial, the defence lawyers argued that any confessional statement made by an accused in the presence of police is inadmissible under law, and so Singh's claims on Guha's confession should not be counted as evidence. But overruling the objection, the judge said Singh was "witness to the seizure and not to any (confessional) memorandum... his testimony related to the circumstances of the seizure of letters from Piyush Guha, and hence was admissible under Indian Evidence Act 1872."

The letters themselves, observed the judge, had been written by Sanyal, without any doubt, as proved by the testimony of a handwriting expert. That Sanyal was a member of the banned CPI Maoist's politburo was confirmed, he said, citing testimonies of several policemen from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, as well as the Maoist magazine 'People's March', seized from Guha, which mentions Sanyal alias Comrade Vijay alias Comrade Prasad as a senior leader of the organisation.

Once again falling back on Singh's testimony, the judge concludes, "It showed the unity of mind of the accused and established facts relating to conspiracy to commit sedition. Apart from this, even before the incident, Narayan Sanyal had sent a postcard to Binayak Sen. Claiming to be a relative, Dr Sen met Sanyal several times in jail. This proves that they knew each other well, had close relations, and hatched a criminal conspiracy."

Sen had maintained in the course of the trial that he met Sanyal in his capacity as a general secretary of the People's Union of Civil Liberties and that it wasn't true that he claimed he was Sanyal's relative. But the judge relied on the testimonies of jail staff who said Dr Sen had claimed so. The judge also observed that PUCL, Rupantar (the NGO run by Binayak Sen's wife Ilina Sen) didn't appear to be registered bodies. "Naxals like Shankar Singh, Malati, etc used to work for Rupantar. This proves Binayak Sen was involved in Naxal activities, and gave them shelter and support."

View the original article here

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