Sens supporters hail SC order granting him bail

New Delhi: Friends, family members and Union Ministers on Friday hailed the Supreme Court order granting bail to rights activist Binayak Sen, with his lawyer Ram Jethmalani saying the verdict is an endorsement of the right to freedom of speech as "a principle of democracy".

Union Ministers P Chidambaram and Salman Khurshid expressed happiness over the court decision to release Sen, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sedition by a Chhattisgarh Court for helping Naxals set up a network, while Law Minister M Veerappa Moily termed it as an "eye opener" for the state government.

"`Satyameva Jayete` (truth alone triumphs)…. My faith in the judicial system is restored," said Sen`s ailing mother Anasuya, 84, in West Bengal`s Nadia district, pointing that the verdict coincided with the Bengali New Year.

Describing her son as "a Gandhian," she said that he "never believed in violence".

Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, who argued before the apex court for bail to Sen, said, "I must confess this is one of the cases where I am personally very happy about what has happened in the Supreme Court.

"It almost establishes a matter of great principle of democracy that everybody has right to exercise his right to freedom of speech.

"Sen is not involved in any kind of violence nor has he fed anyone to resort to violence," said Jethmalani and added, "Literature is available at everybody`s home and I`ll tell you there is much more dangerous literature at my house."

"Politicians must understand these things but it is unfortunate that they don`t," said Jethmalani emphasising that mere possession of literature does not make one Maoist.

Echoing his views, Sen`s wife Ilina cited the observation by one of the judges on the bench that mere possession of Gandhian literature does not make one a Gandhian.

"I thank the judges who commented that finding works of Gandhiji with someone does not make the person a Gandhian." said Ilina, adding that she felt extremely relieved after the apex court order.

"The judgment by the trial court was unfortunate. I would not say that I had lost faith in the legal system, but it makes you feel tired and run out of patience," she said and claimed the charges against him were "ridiculous".

Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said, "It is an eye opener. Chhattishgarh government should have applied its mind objectively and properly without any prejudices. And when the case is in the highest court of the country, it is all the more reasons to be more careful."

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said that his government "respects" the Supreme Court`s decision.

"Supreme Court has only granted him the bail. The pending legal process will continue in High Court at Bilaspur.

Whatever the final verdict be, we will respect that decision too," the chief minister of the BJP ruled state said.

CPI leader D Raja demanded that the state government withdraw the cases "foisted" on Sen. He claimed that a number of his party leaders and cadres were in prison in Chhattisgarh and demanded their immediate release.

Rights activist Swami Agnivesh said the verdict was a comment on the state of affairs in Chhattisgarh.

"The Supreme Court`s order is a comment on the state of affairs in Chhattisgarh which have been turned into a joke by its government," he said.

Relieved after the grant of bail to Sen, his family members said they were looking forward to some happier moments after his release from Raipur jail.

"I am very much relieved, very much happy, my son has gone through much. A mother always feels happy when children are around. This is a good new year gift. I am happy with this verdict, I don`t have to write to him anymore, he will now call me," said Sen`s mother.

"Our family was all shattered but now we are all very happy. I`m looking forward to go to Chhattisgarh and meet my father," said his daughter.

Ilina, who was present in the court, said, "I was holding my breath till the honourable court delivered its judgement and granted bail to my husband. The last four months have been very tense. We will have to rush to Raipur and to get him out of jail."

Sen, 61, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chhattisgarh trial court in December for sedition and helping Naxalites to set up a network to fight the State, a verdict that had drawn flak from rights organisations and civil society activists.

A bench comprising Justices H S Bedi and C K Prasad passed the order on the petition moved by Sen challenging the order of Chhattisgarh High Court denying him bail.