The School of Law, Governance and Citizenship, Ambedkar University invites you to a talk by Kirsten Sellars ‘Waging war against the King’: Hobbesian themes at the Red Fort trial.
Just after the end of the Asia-Pacific War, the British convened a series of courts-martial to try officers of the Indian National Army, which had fought alongside the Japanese. The first trial commenced on 5 November 1945 at the Red Fort, and dealt with three defendants who had been charged with ‘waging war against the King’ – the equivalent of treason, set out in the Indian Penal Code.
This at first appeared to be a straightforward case, but the chief defence counsel, Bhulabhai Desai, turned it on its head. Drawing on Hobbesian themes, he questioned the very premise of the charge of ‘waging war against the King’, arguing that during a war of liberation the justice of the challenger eclipsed the security of the challenged.
Desai’s approach strongly influenced others, including Radhabinod Pal, who would mount similar arguments against the ‘crimes against peace’ charges brought at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, established in Tokyo shortly after.
There’s a final twist. A quarter of a century later, in the aftermath of Bangladesh’s secession from Pakistan in 1971, the new government set up special tribunals to try those who had collaborated with the old regime. Their operation was governed by the ‘Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunal) Order, 1972’, which made explicit reference to several treasonable international crimes, including the crime of ‘waging war’ against Bangladesh. Old wine, new bottles.
About the Speaker
Kirsten Sellars is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She focuses on Asian perspectives on public international law, with a particular interest in the law of the sea, the law governing aggression and uses of force, and international criminal law.
Her latest books, ‘Crimes Against Peace’ and International Law, and the edited volume, Trials for International Crimes in Asia, were both published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.
Note: The colloquium talks are open to the public.