"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
 
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

Rajiv Gandhi - the Secret Trial

October 1992

[see also Rajiv Gandhi Assassination - the Verdict ]

We have said it before and we say it again. The assassination of ex Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was wrong. It was wrong not because ex Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was innocent of responsibility for the war crimes committed during the IPKF occupation of Tamil Eelam.... The assassination of ex Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was wrong because it was wrong to punish without charge and without trial according to law.

But, if that was wrong, then, as we have said before, and we say again, the Chengalpattu trial (of those accused of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination)  is worse because the Indian Government seeks to give the appearance of punishing through a ‘trial’ which, in truth, is no trial at all.

As Dr. Norman Baker’s analysis shows, the investigation into the Rajiv Gandhi assassination was biased from the very commencement. But it was not only the investigation that was biased. The so called ‘trial’ itself is being directed to a pre ordained ending. It is being held under the special Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and not under the normal law of the land. It is being held without the normal procedural safeguards which crystallise civilisation’s substitute for private and arbitrary vengeance.

The trial is being held in secret, away from public scrutiny, and within the precincts of a jail. Secrecy breeds abuse of due process. Again unlike under the normal law of India, ‘confessions’ to a police officer of the rank of a Superintendent of Police are made admissible under TADA - and this in a country where torture by the police is a ‘routine’ occurrence. A recent Amnesty International Report concluded:

‘‘ Police officers of all ranks, and in some cases magistrates, doctors and state officials, have conspired to conceal the truth about torture, rape and death in custody and to shield the guilty... Torture is also routinely used during the interrogation of criminal suspects, even those accused of the most petty offences. ...Political prisoners are often brutally tortured and untold numbers have died as a result. The Indian Government, while refusing access to international organizations and failing to respond seriously to the international human rights procedures of the UN, has claimed that its legal system, free press and civil liberties organizations are adequate to address human rights violations. Sadly, this is not the case.’’

Under the notorious TADA provisions, ‘confessions’ may not only be led in evidence against those who allegedly made them, but in addition, where a ‘confession’ implicates a co accused, the Court is required to presume that such co accused is guilty and the burden shifts to the co accused to prove his innocence. These provisions of TADA constitute a gross violation of the fundamental principle of justice that every one shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty by an impartial court according to law. It is this principle which represents civilised society’s response to ‘lynch law’ which is no law at all - and it is this principle which TADA brazenly flouts.

But, again this is not all. Whilst on the one hand the trial proceedings are supposedly ‘secret’, and the Court has made order excluding the press, on the other hand selective press releases have been issued from time to time of the prosecution case and the ‘evidence’ that the prosecution proposes to lead at the trial. Trial by press directed by a Government with a political axe to grind, is no substitute for trial according to internationally recognised rules of procedural law.

The Chengalpattu secret trial has all the features of a ‘show trial’ with a pre ordained ending - features which invite comparison with the infamous show trials of 1936 under Stalin’s regime in the then Soviet Union. The Indian Government is foolish if it believes that it can use this secret trial as a political weapon to stifle the national struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam. It is the Indian Government and its agencies which stand charged before the bar of world opinion of making a mockery of the judicial process by using it to further the Government’s political ends.

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