Observing that being a Maoist sympathiser was not a crime, the Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to rights activist Binayak Sen, who had been convicted of sedition by a trial court and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Sen and two others, Kolkata-based businessman Piyush Guha and Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal, were convicted on December 24, 2010. The Supreme Court order will not affect the status of the other two.
Sen’s wife Ilena, who attended the hearing, said after the court order: “I am feeling relieved. But a lot more remains to be done. The appeal is still pending in the (Chhattisgarh) high court.”On February 10, 2011, the Chhattisgarh high court dismissed his bail plea.
An apex court bench, headed by justice HS Bedi, while suspending 61-year-old Sen's sentence, said, “We are a democratic country. He (Sen) may be a sympathiser (of Maoists) but that did not make him guilty of sedition.”
Directing the trial court to release Sen on bail after laying down conditions, the bench said, “No case of sedition is made out. The worst can be said that he was found in possession of general documents (relating to Maoist activities), but how can it be said that such possession would attract the charge of sedition?”
UU Lalit, who appeared for the Chhattisgarh government, alleged that besides providing logistics, Sen exchanged information and materials with the Maoists in Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa.
Earlier, appearing for Sen, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani pointed out that the state had been unable to point out the misconduct on his client's part. He contended that conviction for sedition was untenable and illegal in the face of law and the trial court judgment did not comply with any requirement of law.