Referring to rights activist Binayak Sen being sentenced to life term, two former chief justices of India (CJI) on Tuesday said that the evidence against an accused in a sedition case needs to be really strong, proving the guilt "beyond a shadow of doubt".
"The state has to prove to the hilt that the person is guilty. If there is anything short of that, the person can't be convicted," former CJI V N Khare told a TV channel.
Sen, 59, was Dec 24 held guilty of sedition by a Chhattisgarh court and sentenced to life term. He is a vice president of the People's Union for Civil Liberties.
Sen was arrested in 2007 from Bilaspur for alleged links with Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal but was released in May 2009 at the behest of the Supreme Court.
Former CJI Khare said that the case would now be decided in high court only on the grounds of evidence.
"The matter will go on (with the focus being on) whether the kind of evidence before the trial court is correct," added Khare.
If the evidence is weak, the high court can set aside the order, he said.
Former CJI A H Ahmadi also echoed Khare's view on having tight evidence against the accused in cases of sedition.
"The charge is very serious and the punishment prescribed is also very serious. Evidence has to be clinching against the accused," he said.
"If proof is weak, I would not expect court to sustain the conviction. In deciding such cases, judiciary should show great concern," Ahmadi said.