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Binayak unjustly convicted: Amartya Sen

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Jan 08, 2011 at 03:38pm IST

New Delhi: Coming out in support of Binayak Sen, Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen said on Saturday that the life sentence given to the doctor-activist looks like a "miscarriage of justice".

Sen also hoped that the judgement convicting Binayak, who has been awarded life term by a Chhattisgarh court for "sedition" and colluding with Maoists, will not "survive" the challenge made to the higher courts of the country.

The Nobel laureate was addressing a gathering after releasing a book 'A Doctor to Defend - the Story of Binayak Sen' written by journalist and documentary filmmaker Minnie Vaid.

Binayak unjustly convicted: Amartya Sen

Sen said this at the book release 'A Doctor to Defend - the Story of Binayak Sen'.

He referred to the "exemplary" work Binayak did to reach healthcare to people in rural Chhattisgarh and said the judgement also raises some questions about India's democracy, legal framework and Indian engagement with issue of equity.

It appears that Binayak has been "unjustly convicted" though the matter is "sub-judice" and "we should not second - guess" the courts," Sen said, adding, he hopes that the ruling will be changed by the High Court or the Supreme Court.

"The charge of passing communication appeared to have been based on second-hand or third-hand material...even then how the offence of sedition could be made out? There was no indication that he supported or preached violence," he said.

Sen said he was somewhat "amazed" by the nature of the decision and added in a slightly lighter vein, "Tomorrow I may be sued for sedition depending on the content of a letter someone asked me to post in a letter box."

"As Indian citizens, we have right to pose questions -- like how some petty thinking became so dominant in the Indian legal system," Sen said. He also referred to the sedition charge brought against writer Arundhati Roy and the point made that her comments allegedly offended "patriotic sentiments".

"In a democracy, we have no obligation to air only patriotic sentiments. If some people don't understand it...this is about the foundation of democracy."

Noted jurist Soli Sorabjee, who was present at the function, said the "worrying" factor about the ruling was its "tone and temper" which seemed to suggest that "if you sympathise with Naxals, be prepared". "There is an atmosphere of paranoia," he said.

Sen said it looks like a "miscarriage of justice".

To a question whether this judgement would discourage physicians who want to work in remote rural areas, he said it can be a disacouragement if it survives the challenge made to

higher courts.

Sen felt India needs to have basic coverage of public health services than "premature privatisation" of medical care. He also hailed Binayak's efforts to serve people in need of medical care and his fight for their rights. "I hope that he will be able to serve them again".

To a question by a mediaperson about his recent statement on growth, he said, "Growth is important but not an objective.

"It is important whether growth is generating income for all, its fruits are being shared and whether the public revenue generated is being used for all."

Minnie Vaid said 'A Doctor to Defend' is her first book, the inspiration for which came after she read about Binayak in a magazine. "I went to Chhattisgarh and saw the enormous goodwill he enjoys among the villagers there. In the forefront of the campaign to free him were his patients."

"People there have reacted to this judgement with shock and disbelief. They are waiting for him to come back. They say for them he is like a god. An old villager told me, 'our life has spent but he will make our children's lives better'".

She said the book is not a biography but stories told by three persons who mattered to Binayak. It took 8-9 months to research and write the book during which he also interviewed Binayak several times. "I have also shot a documentary on him by the same name which is now at the editing stage," she said.

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