Sunday, April 1, 2012

Editorial, "Exonerate our Freedom Fighters", in LAW ANIMATED WORLD, 15-31 March 2012 Martyrs Memorial Special issue, Vol. 8, Part 1: Nos. 5-6

Exonerate our freedom fighters

our State and our Courts MUST, particularly those like Tilak and Bhagat Singh and his comrades who were convicted of supposedly grave state offences, especially when almost all of us Indians day in and day out profess our love and respect towards them and even several persons running the State and presiding the Courts exhort the people to emulate their virtues. I mean to say and ask – when a colonial government was fought tooth and nail, in both non-violent and violent ways, shedding the blood and sacrificing the lives of thousands of the best sons and daughters of the country, how can the stigma of criminal liability and convictions be allowed to remain, marring their images? Years back, when this journal was first started as occasional bulletins, we have brought to the attention of our readers two such salient developments in France where the highest authorities not only exonerated Dreyfus but also apologised for having convicted and subjected him to rights violations and unjust punishments. French President Jacques Chirac apologising well after a century exonerating Dreyfus and applauding the great writer Emile Zola for his thundering J’accuse… protest letter, clearly admitted that “it was a dark stain that was unworthy of our country and our history, a colossal judicial error and a shameful State compromise!” Likewise the French General Thomas Lally – whose cause the great Voltaire assiduously, but in vain, espoused, and who was unjustly executed – was exonerated by the French Army after 163 years. Back home we find Tilak being deliberately and unjustly sentenced to six years transportation [implemented by incarcerating him in Mandalay Jail] on a dubious charge under the notorious section 124A IPC by a picked jury with a European majority and with all the Indian gentlemen of the jury opposed to the verdict - was it not a stark judicial error and shameless state excess. Bhagat Singh and others were convicted by a Tribunal set up by a special Ordinance of the Viceroy under his emergency powers, as a Bill for such a law was rejected by the Central Legislative Assembly, and per procedure which allowed for the absence of the accused at trial and denied them right of cross-examination of scores of witnesses. Such ignominious state and judicial atrocities need to be properly atoned for, at least now, by our legislatures and superior courts. No use or meaning in just conducting workshops and exhibitions of the trials of these great heroes of the nation but not exonerating them duly and fully §§§

LAW ANIMATED WORLD, 15-31 March 2012 Martyrs Memorial Special issue Title page photos