Does anyone in India know this piece of important turning point in history?
Answer must be a firm “No” from most of us! Now please read on.
Remembered, valued and honoured in Japan, but forgotten in India for sure.
The lesser – known International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) was created in Tokyo, Japan, pursuant to a 1946 proclamation by US Army General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in the occupied Japan. Eleven countries Australia, Canada, China, France, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States provided judges and prosecutors for the court. The defense comprised Japanese and American lawyers.
Twenty – eight top Japanese military and political leaders were charged with fifty – five separate counts encompassing the waging of aggressive war, murder and conventional war crimes committed against the prisoners-of-war, civilian internees and the inhabitants of the occupied territories. The defendants included former prime ministers, former foreign ministers and former military commanders of Japan. In the course of the proceedings, the court ruled that 45 of the counts, including all the murder charges, were either redundant or not authorised under the IMTFE Charter. This tribunal is not known, since the original charges went against the US stance and is not famous as Nuremberg Trials.
Two defendants died during the proceedings and one was ruled unfit to stand trial. All remaining defendants were found guilty of at least one count. Sentences ranged from seven years’ of rigorous imprisonment to execution.
The tribunal was adjourned on November 12, 1948.
The day was 12th November, 1948. ‘Tokyo Trials’ are going on in an huge garden house on the outskirts of Tokyo, the trial of fifty – five Japanese war criminals including Japan’s then Prime Minister Tojo, after losing WWII.
Of these, twenty – eight people were identified as Class – A (crimes against peace) war criminals. If proved, the only punishment is the ultimate “death penalty”.
Justice Radhabinod Pal of India produced a judgment in which he dismissed the legitimacy of the IMTFE as victor’s justice: “I would hold that each and every one of the accused must be found not guilty of each and every one of the charges in the indictment and should be acquitted on all those charges.” While taking into account the influence of wartime propaganda, exaggerations, and distortions of facts in the evidence, and “over – zealous” and “hostile” witnesses, Pal concluded, “The evidence is still overwhelming that atrocities were perpetrated by the members of the Japanese armed forces against the civilian population of some of the territories occupied by them as also against the prisoners of war.”
Eleven international judges from all over the world are announcing ……”Guilty”…. “Guilty”…… “Guilty”……… Suddenly one thundered, “Not Guilty!”
An eerie silence came down in the hallway. Who was this lone dissenter?
His name was Justice Radhabinod Pal a Judge from India, who was on this jury.
Born in the year 1886 in the Kumbh of the East Bengal, now an independent country Bangladesh, his mother made a living by taking care of a household and their cow. For feeding the cow, Radha used to take the cow to the land near a local primary school.
When the teacher taught in school, Radha used to listen from outside the class standing. One day the school inspector came to visit the school from the city. He asked some questions to the students after entering the class. Everyone was silent in the room. Radha, since he was not a student said from outside the classroom window. “I know the answer to all your questions.” And he answered all the questions one by one in the same sequence as asked by the inspector fluently. Inspector was aghast and said “Wonderful! Lad. Which class do you read?”
The answer came quickly, “I do not read, Sir. I graze a cow right near the school”, was the terse reply without winking an eyelid?
Everyone was shocked to hear that. Calling the head teacher, the school inspector instructed the boy to take admission in school as well as provide some stipend.
This is how education of Radhabinod Pal started. Then after passing the school final with the highest marks in the district, he was admitted to the world famous Presidency College at Calcutta, now Kolkata. After obtaining M Sc. Degree from the University of Calcutta, he studied law and got the Doctorate title.
In the context of choosing the opposite of two things he once said, “law and mathematics are not so different after all.”
Coming back again to the International Court of Tokyo.
In his convincing argument to the rest of the jurists he signified that the Allies, (winners of the WWII), also violated the principles of restraint and neutrality of the international law. In addition to ignoring Japan’s surrender hints, they killed two hundred thousand innocent people using nuclear bombardment, while the propaganda machinery blabbered that Japanese were not willing to surrender to the victors. They surrendered only after bombs were hurled, which killed thousands of innocent civilians.
The judges were forced to drop many of the accused from Class – A to B, after seeing the logic written on twelve hundred thirty-two pages by Justice Radhabinod Pal. These Class – B war criminals were saved by him from a sure death penalty. His verdict in the international court gave him and India a world – famous reputation.
Justice Radhabinod Pal is described as the father of Modern International Humanitarian Law. He was the Head of the Department of Law Calcutta University. He was persuaded not to write this judgement and was offered the first President of International Court of Justice. But he refused and wrote the Judgement. A great legal luminary.
Japan respects this great human, being as an apostle of human dignity. In 1966 Emperor Hirohito awarded him the highest civilian honor of the country, ‘Kokko Kunsao’. Two busy roads in Tokyo and Kyoto have been named after him. His verdict has been included in the syllabi of the law studies there.
In front of the Supreme Court of Tokyo, his statue has been placed. In 2007, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his desire to meet his family members in New Delhi and met his son.
Dr. Radhabinod Pal (27th January 1886 – 10th January 1967) name is remembered in the history of Japan. In Tokyo, Japan, he has a place in a museum and a statue in Yasukuni Shrine. Visits by Japanese prime ministers to the shrine have resulted in official condemnation by neighbouring countries since 1985, as they see it as an attempt to legitimise Japan’s past militarism. Visits to the shrine are also controversial in the domestic debate over the proper role of religion in the Japanese Government.
Japan University has a research centre in his name. Because of his judgment on Japanese war criminals, Chinese and may be Korean people hate him.
He is the author of many books related to law. In India, almost nobody knows him and perhaps not even his neighbours know him! A Hindi movie was made on him, Tokyo Trials, starring Irfan Khan but that movie never made headlines…..just one of the many many underrated & unknown Indians.
Let this noble soul be included in indian syllabus.