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44. Dr. Satyapal's Case

Dr. Satyapal's statement, which is published in another column*, shows what a gross injustice has been done in his case as in that of Dr. Kitchlew. They had to be absolved from any participation in the violence that occurred after their arrest. What violence there ever was in Amritsar took place after they were arrested. 'They were, therefore, accused of all sorts of things which they had never done, of speeches they had never made. Dr. Satyapal's clear, emphatic and courageous statement is a categorical denial of the whole string of charges against him. He shows clearly that the speeches he made were incorrectly reported by the C.I.D. officials, and that every time he spoke he preached the gospel of truth and non-violence, and unceasingly warned the people against losing their temper and going in for any excesses.
I have purposely refrained from printing a spirited letter addressed to me by Dr. Satyapal's father in which he gives his own impressions of the case. I cannot, however, resist the temptation of quoting some of the facts stated in it. For instance, he says:

"At first time it was not the intention of the Government to prosecute Drs. Kitchlew and Satyapal who had been deported on the 10th April and therefore his (the approver's) confessional statement before the Magistrate of Amritsar did not incriminate them. But as soon as there was a change in the intention of the Government, an additional statement by way of an 'improvement' was obtained which implicated both of these gentlemen."

If this allegation is true, it is a severe reflection on the methods of prosecution and it vitiates the whole of the proceedings. Again this letter says:

"Dr. Satyapal was restricted from public speaking etc. on the 29th March. The Commissioners have sentenced him to transportation for life on the ground that he was a member of a conspiracy formed for disseminating sedition. But it is curious to the highest degree that he did not even attend the meeting of the 30th March—not to say of his having addressed the meeting —as held by the judges, and it is the meeting in which sedition has been said to have been disseminated in pursuance of the conspiracy."

It is true that Dr. Satyapal signed the handbill convening the meeting that was held on 30th March.
That was on the 28th March. But if there was any conspiracy, it became one not on the 28th but on the 30th. A platform ticket agitation carried on by Dr. Satyapal in January and February last was shamelessly brought into the trial to prejudice him, an agitation that was entirely harmless and successful, and about which Dr. Satyapal even received thanks from the station authorities.
The letter concludes:

“For your information I may mention that Dr. Satyapal offered himself for military service in 1915 and was granted a temporary commission as a lieutenant I.M.S. He was posted at Aden where under very trying of his superior officers who gave him eulogizing testimonials at the time of his departure. In 1918 he again volunteered for service but the arrangement fell through. During the influenza and malaria epidemics he did his level best in his humble way to mitigate the official sanads. It is indeed a befitting sequel to be convicted under section 124A after such a record of services to the Government and public both.”

As I have already observed, the Lahore and Amritsar cases are not cases in which a commutation can carry any merit or give satisfaction. It is not mercy that the distinguished accused asks for. It is justice that they seek and on which public must insist. Reduction in the sentences is a blind, however unintended it may be. It must not be allowed to lull the public to sleep. There can be no contentment unless there is a complete and honourable discharge, for the leaders of Lahore and Amritsar.

Young India, 3-9-1919