Beyond the courtroom

Written by Sandip Das | Updated: Oct 1 2012, 02:15am hrs
The Curious Case of Binayak Sen dissects the infamous sedition case against Dr Binayak Sen, while giving us an insight into a flawed judicial system

It has been over five years when the nation woke up to the news that public health specialist and civil rights activist Binayak Sen was arrested by Chhattisgarh police for helping Naxals. His crime: He allegedly acted as a courier for businessman Piyush Guha. Dr Sen had apparently taken a packet to jailed Naxal leader Narayan Sanyal. The case shocked the nation. From civil society to general public, who were aware of Dr Sens exemplary work in providing critical health care to rural India, rallied against his arrest. Many petitioned the Supreme Court against his arrest, and for being charged of waging war against the country.

Dr Sens prison ordeal began in May 2007, when he was arrested by the police. He was granted bail only in 2009. In December 2010, a sessions court in Raipur found him guilty and sentenced him to lifetime imprisonment. The Supreme Court granted him bail again in 2011. The Curious Case of Binayak Sen minutely examines the case as it unfolds, it delves into the sequence of events that led to the arrest of Dr Sen. Author Dilip DSouza cites the curious role the Chhattisgarh government played in filing a case against the doctor when it had appointed both Dr Sen and his wife Ilina Sen as advisers to a state advisory committee for health reforms. DSouza, while minutely studying the case of Dr Sen, brings out lacunae in the Indian judiciary system. The key focus of the book is that the legal case against the Dr Sen does not hold ground.

To understand the case thoroughly and to get a clear picture of the person who devoted much of his life in the remotest corner of the country, DSouza visited the rural-tribal areas of Chhattisgarh where he worked. The book is not straitjacketed only to understand the legal aspects. It goes further and tries to present another side of Dr Sen's personality and his stand on the sad state of the health system in the country. Dr Sen, who believes that there is a stable famine or state of famine in the country, says, Such conditions hold even though India actually produces enough food to feed all Indians. Only, it does not reach all Indians.

In the book D'Souza draws the reader's attention to a serious flaw in the chargesheets against Dr Sen. Sen is accused of not being a doctor at all. The reasoning being that when the police searched the doctors house, there was no evidence of medical instruments like a stethoscope nor were any medicines found. However, why would the government appoint someone who it does not think is a doctor

The book also highlights the constant police supervision of the clinics run by Dr Sen in Chhattisgarh. After he was released on bail, he visited Barumnal several times to run his clinic. Each time, the police arrived soon after he did. They visited the families he treated and interrogated them for any 'links to Sen' and by inferred extensions to Maoist.

As a disclaimer, D'Souza reiterates that the the book is not a biography of Binayak Sen. Nor is it an effort to paint him as a saintly man unjustly wronged. It is an effort to understand the case and the issues it raises, in a wider context than just a courtroom.

The Curious Case of Binayak Sen

Dilip Dsouza

HarperCollins

Rs. 250

Pg 192