The name of Bhagat Singh has become a part of common folklore in India. There is a growing number of audiences in the country who are highly interested in the story of the unsung heroes of India. The unusual glorification of Congress than what it deserves has made history as a subject mundane to many. Therefore, the release of the book ‘The Execution of Bhagat Singh Legal Heresies of the Raj’ written by Professor Satvinder Singh Juss, of King’s College London, deserves a huge round of applause.
In contrast to nonviolence, Bhagat Singh was ready to fight the British Raj with arms. However, he used to recognize himself as a political worker, and certainly not as a ‘terrorist’. The story of Jawaharlal Nehru going furious after the conviction of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru underlines the fact that the whole trial was just a sham. The unprecedented manner in which Subhas Chandra Bose and others were not allowed to even meet the accused speaks of the level of hypocrisy of the British Raj. All the ideals of fair trial and the rule of law were put aside. It was the triumph of rule by law, meaning the imposition of the will of the executive bypassing all standard legal procedures.
What was the urgency of passing the Lahore Ordinance when it was clearly stated that the Governor could do it only in the cases of ‘emergency’? Was there an intelligence report which hinted at the collapse of law and order if the trial of these revolutionaries was carried out? The book has tried to attempt the question of whether there was any case of ‘emergency.’ Mohammad Ali Jannah, the founder of Pakistan and one of the main proponents of two-nation theory, had provided the strongest defense to the accused. We get to see another side of Jinnah, who was a brilliant lawyer and stood for the revolutionaries when they were rendered defenseless by their own as well as the Britishers.
n one of the chapters of the book, the author admits “no one today seriously doubts that Bhagat Singh did indeed shoot and kill Saunders in a case of mistaken identity.” However, as the author demonstrates through the chapter, the evidence given by witnesses was certainly not sufficient to implicate Bhagat Singh in the Lahore Conspiracy Case. If the trial were held in today’s time, there is no doubt that the accused would have been acquitted. The last chapter of the book is equally thrilling. The case finally reaches the Privy Council where the defendants were represented by DN Pritt. DN Pritt was neither an underdog nor a rising lawyer when he represented Bhagat Singh and others. He was already an established lawyer representing the likes of Ho Chi Minn, former president of Vietnam.
The book is full of such interesting details and the author has done a meticulous job to provide a logical perspective based on the material of Lahore Archives and other accessible records.