At a time when India is celebrating its Independence Day, a research paper has shown that the much-acclaimed freedom fighter Shaheed Bhagat Singh was illegally detained, tried and executed.
Bhagat Singh, along with Shivram Rajguru and Sukhdev, was sentenced to death on July 2, 1930, after a trial held by a special tribunal under ordinance No. 3 of 1930 issued by the then Governor General of India. They had been charged with the murder of Assistant Superintendent of Police JP Saunders.
The trial was a departure from the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) under which it should have been conducted by a sessions court and not by a special tribunal, claims the research paper brought out by Dr Nafis Ahmad Siddiqui, an advocate at the Supreme Court.
Another lacuna was the fact that the special tribunal conducted the proceedings without the accused being present at the trial and passed the death sentence ex parte. Further, the tribunal had issued the warrant of execution of the death sentence without any confirmation from the Lahore High Court.
The execution could not be held on October 27, 1930, as scheduled as the then Punjab Government had suspended it after the convicts had sought the Privy Council’s permission for challenging the sentence. In view of this, the warrant expired, rendering even the continued detention of Bhagat Singh and others illegal, Siddiqui contends.
One Chint Ram Thapur filed a criminal miscellaneous petition (No. 36 of 1931) in the Lahore HC seeking the release of Bhagat Singh and others in the light of the expiry of the warrant. Even the special tribunal had ceased to exist and the jail authorities were not in a position to execute the death sentence in the absence of a fresh warrant. Any fresh warrant could have been issued only by the tribunal, but it was no longer in existence, the petition had contended.
Though the HC dismissed the petition, it observed that the warrant of execution must have been legally issued. Following this, another “illegality” was committed by the Governor of Punjab by approaching the Lahore HC for the issue of a fresh warrant. The HC issued a warrant for the execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev which was carried out on March 23, 1931.
This warrant issued by the HC Registrar was “illegal and without authority and without jurisdiction” and as such the execution of Bhagat Singh and others “was not in accordance with the law and it was a clear case of judicial murder,” says the research paper.
The British Government should tender an unconditional apology and pay adequate compensation to the family members of Bhagat Singh and others, the researcher concluded.
- Trial conducted by special tribunal violating CrPC and IPC
- Accused absent at trial; sentence passed ex parte
- Warrant of execution of death sentence issued without confirmation from Lahore High Court
- HC, beyond its jurisdiction, issued fresh warrant after the previous one had expired and the tribunal had been disbanded