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Bhagat Singh took legal advice from Lala Duni Chand; An RSS associate did not represent the British in the trial

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A social media post that speaks about Bhagat Singh’s trial in the ‘Assembly Bombing’ case is being widely shared across all platforms. The post claims that Asaf Ali, a Muslim advocate argued on behalf of Bhagat Singh in the court when all the lawyers refused to do so; whereas Rai Bahadur Suryavamsham Sharma, a member of RSS and also a close associate of RSS founding member Hedgewar argued in favour of British empire and pleaded death sentence for Bhagat Singh. Let’s fact-check the claims made in the post.

The archived version of this post can be found here

Claim: Asaf Ali, a Muslim argued on behalf of Bhagat Singh ; Rai Bahadur Suryavamsham Sharma, an RSS member represented the British empire and pleaded death sentence for Bhagat Singh.

Fact: Bhagat Singh faced two trials. The first is in the central assembly bombing case in which Bhagat Singh was sentenced for life. It is in the ‘Murder of Saunders’ case that Bhagat Singh was sentenced to death. As far as the Saunders murder case is concerned, it is evident from the official judgement documents that Lala Duni Chand advised Bhagat Singh in fighting his own case, whereas Mr. Noad appeared for the British crown as prosecutor. In the assembly bombing as per official document, Asaf Ali represented Bhagat Singh, however eminent legal scholar A.G. Noorani in his book contested that Bhagat Singh fought his own case with Asaf Ali as his advisor. Further the official document states Rai Bahadur Suraj Narain appeared as the public prosecutor for the crown. However, we could not find any substantial evidence associating him to RSS or Hedgewar. Hence, the claim made in the post is MISLEADING.

Bhagat Singh faced two trials. The first trial was for charges of attempt to murder and conspiracy in the bombing of the Indian Central Legislative Assembly (CLA) in Delhi, whereas the second trail was for the charge of  murder of Assistant Superintendent Saunders in Lahore. This case is also known as the Lahore conspiracy case.

Assembly Bombing Case :

On 08 April 1929, Bhagat Singh along with Batukeshwar Dutt (Datta) threw a low intensity bomb in the central assembly in Delhi, where after both Bhagat Singh and Dutt offered themselves to be arrested. The trial started on 07 May 1929 and ended on 12 June 1929 with the court pronouncing the judgement sentencing both Bhagat Singh and Dutt with transportation to life.

Digitalised records of the Judgement pertaining to this case are available on Abhilekh Patal portal of the National Archives of India. The same document is also available on Indian Culture portal (Vol 1 & Vol 2).

In these judgement documents, it is categorically mentioned that Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt are the accused and Asaf Ali is the counsel for both. Further, the document states Rai Bahadur Suraj Narain was the public prosecutor for the crown.

However eminent legal scholar A.G. Noorani in his book ‘The Trial of Bhagat Singh — Politics of Justice’, stated that Asaf Ali represented Batukeshwar Dutt whereas Bhagat Singh fought his own case with the help of a legal adviser. Noorani shared an excerpt of a letter written by Bhagat Singh to his father wherein he requests for a legal advisor. The excerpt shared in the book reads “there was no need to engage a lawyer. But I want to take legal opinion on certain ·matters, but they are not so important”. This is also evident from another excerpt of the book which reads ‘Asaf Ali claimed that while substantially the draft was Bhagat Singh’s, he had polished the language.’ The Hindu also reported that Asaf Ali represented Dutt and advised Bhagat Singh in fighting his own case.

Even this book reiterated the fact that Rai Bahadur Suraj Narain represented the British Crown. However, we could not find any substantial evidence to conclude that Rai Bahadur Suraj Narain is associated with RSS or his association with RSS founding member Hedgewar.

Lahore Conspiracy Case:

It is in this case Bhagat Singh along with Sukhdev and Raj Guru were sentenced to death for killing Assistant Superintendent Saunders. Eventually, the three were hanged on 23 March 1931.

Multiple digitalised documents related to the case are available on Indian Culture portal. As per the judgement document available on this portal, it is not Asaf Ali but Lala Duni Chand who advised Bhagat Singh regarding this particular case. On the other hand, Asaf Ali represented Sukhdev as defence counsel in the court.

As per the documents, Mr. Noad appeared as the public prosecutor on behalf of the British crown. Further, there is no mention of any person named Rai Bahadur Suryavamsham Sharma in the document.

Even in his book, Noorani mentioned that Bhagat Singh opted for Lala Duni Chand for legal advice and Mr. Noad appeared for the British Crown. From all the available information, it is evident that the person who argued against Bhagat Singh in the case which eventually led to his hanging is not linked to the RSS.

To sum it up, Bhagat Singh took legal advice from Lala Duni Chand; An RSS associate did not represent the British in the trial.

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