Thoughts on economics and liberty

The Vikram Buddhi case

I have been made aware of Vikram Buddhi's case over the past few months (please search Google for details if you haven't heard of it yet). But I was hesitant to comment publicly on this matter, for upon a (relatively cursory) examination of public documents available in this case, I found it too complex for me to form a judicious view one way or the other. However, in my recent trip to India I met Somnath Bharti who explained this case to me, and I'm now ready to write about it.

Somnath is an IIT-Delhi engineer who later took a degree in law and now works as a lawyer in the Indian Supreme Court. A few months ago, this case somehow came to Somnath’s notice. He did not know Vikram or his family before taking up this case, but after examining the facts of the matter he was convinced that Vikram has been denied justice in the USA. He therefore took up Vikram’s case on a pro-bono basis.

After my detailed discussion with Somanth I am now convinced that Vikram is innocent, noting that my conclusion is not based on first hand examination of all the facts personally, but on the explanation of key issues provided by Somnath. Hence this blog post that seeks to inform the public of India (and USA) about the injustice meted to Vikram Buddhi.

VIKRAM DID NOT WRITE THE EMAILS 'THREATENING' THE US PRESIDENT

Somnath being an ex-IITian possesses certain expertise in technical matters. He has formed a view after examining the facts of the case that the US investigators did not offer a fool-proof case to prove that Vikram wrote the alleged threatening emails. The case was built primarily on suspicion by certain persons in the University for reasons which are totally unrelated to the case against Vikram.

The facts of authorship of the emails are extremely weak. Many others could have very well written this email. THERE IS NO DIRECT LINK TO VIKRAM. Vikram almost certainly didn’t write them, leave alone remotely threaten the US President in any form or manner (even assuming that the emails were considered a direct threat – which is a matter I believe irrelevant to the case against Vikram if he did not even write the emails in the first place).

To convict someone of a crime there must be a direct proof (that excludes others entirely) linking the facts of the crime to the person who is alleged to have committed the crime. NO SUCH PROOF EXISTS. To thereafter convict Vikram based on such a flawed basis is a travesty of justice. I am now convinced by the explanations provided by Somnath that on the balance of probabilities, Vikram has been unjustly treated by the law in USA.

GOVERNMENT LAWYERS PROVIDED WEAK DEFENCE

Vikram's defence lawyers provided by the US Government (Somnath was yet to even hear about this case) chose to provide a very weak defence which did not seek to dismiss the case on the grounds that the basic allegation – that Vikram had drafted these emails – had not been conclusively proved. They argued second order and essentially irrelevant issues, such as where was a threat implied by the emails. Why they did not argue that the case be thrown out entirely because of a lack of direct link of emails to Vikram is not known. Possibly incompetence.

APPELLATE CASE

By the time Somnath got to the Vikram Buddhi case, it had been mangled to an extent that made it extremely difficult to fix it. The main obstacle now is that an appeal cannot introduce new evidence (if such evidence were allowed, Somnath should be readily able to demonstrate that Vikram did not draft the emails). 

Somnath is now constructing a much weaker (technical) appeal the chances of success of which are significantly lesser than would have been the case had a competent lawyer argued the initial defence, or the initial judge been more inquisitive about the facts. It is also possible that in order to avoid publichumiliation of its justice system and damage to its human rights record, the US could well compound the mistakes already made in this case during the appellate process.

One can only hope that the US system will uphold ITS HIGHEST CONCEPTIONS OF LIBERTY AND JUSTICE for the defence of which the US came into existence. I suggest that the US Government deploy its best experts to study the case carefully and seek to confirm for itselfbeyond doubt that Vikram did indeed author the emails he is being convicted for given that it is almost certain that he did not.

LET THE TRUTH ABOUT THE CASE SEE PUBLIC LIGHT

Even if the position of the US Government does not change during the appellate process and the original (wrong) conviction against Vikram is upheld, I do hope that Vikram will, upon his release which is set for 6 May 2011, write a book that tells the world of the misjustice against him and the consequent loss of liberties he suffered in USA, the alleged greatest free nation on earth. One only hopes he does not harbour any personal bitterness against the USA or any individual during this process.

CONCLUSION

I would like to wish Somnath (and Vikram) success in the appellate process, and trust that Vikram is finally given justice and not only his reputation reinstated, but due compensation awarded by the US Government for the many years of wrongful imprisonment he has undergone (and will still undergo for the next 14 months).

I would also like to urge you, dear reader, to explore the case carefully and provide comments on this blog. I’ll seek Somnath's comment on issues that I am unable to address.

My comment added on 13 April 2010, being an extract from my draft manuscript, The Discovery of Freedom: "The USA became the first nation to comply with the rule of law, with the USA constitution insisting on the ‘due process of law’. It is a moot question whether the USA actually delivers the rule of law today."

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