In the end, it was the Lahore Conspiracy Case trial which led to Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom. On March 23, 1831, Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru were hanged in Hussainwala, Punjab – an area which is now in Pakistan.
Their execution had the effect of leading several men and women down the path of revolution against the British Raj.
On December 17, 1927, Singh and Rajguru shot assistant superintendent of police, John Saunders. They were assisted in Saunders’ killing by Sukhdev and Chandrashekhar Azad. However, the group’s actual target was James Scott (Saunders’ superior), who had ordered a lathi-charge on protesters earlier, which had led to the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.
The slow-moving trial resulted in the setting up of a tribunal consisting of Justice J. Coldstream, Justice Agha Hyder and Justice G.C. Hilton. Vested with powers which allowed them to proceed without the presence of the accused, it delivered a 300-page judgment on October 7, 1930. The verdict confirmed the trio’s involvement and they were sentenced to be hanged to death.
In March 2018, the Punjab Archives in Lahore put some documents related to the trial on display. The exhibit contained documents and letters from Singh which had not been made public earlier.
The following letters are written by Singh. The first is addressed to the Superintendent of the C.I.D. in Lahore, with Bhagat Singh seeking permission to meet his father in relation to the case. The second, a longer one, was written by Singh and nine other comrades to avail legal help for the case. On May 5, 1930, five of Singh’s comrades had written to the tribunal with the intention to boycott it. However, on May 8, 1930, they wrote another letter (in full below) in which they sought to prepare their defence for the case.
Here is the full text of the two letters:
The Superintendent (Special duty),
C.I.D. (Political Branch)
I will feel much obliged if you will kindly allow me to have an interview with my father as I have got very important instructions to give him for my defence counsel in connection with the Delhi case.
I hope you will not disallow it on the ground that I already have had an interview as the matter is very urgent.
Hoping to be favoured
Sd./ Bhagat Singh
In the court of the Special Tribunal
Lahore Conspiracy case, Lahore
Crown vs. Sukhdev &Others
Charged under secs 302, 120-B+121-A, IPC
This humble petition of the accused persons
Bhagat Singh &others most respectfully shweth:
(1) That the petitioners are charged with most serious offences including sec. 302 with 120B and 109 IPC
(2) That the majority of the petitioners have been lodged for the last eight or nine months in jail.
(3) That with one exception, all the petitioners as stated below belong to distant provinces and as such have no relative here to look after their defence.
1. Ajay kumar ghosh – Allahabad, U.P
2. Bejoy Kumar Sinha – Cawnpore, U.P
3. Prem Dutt – Srinagar, Kashmir
4. Kamal Nath Tewary – Betiah, Bihar
5. Shiv Verma – Hardopi, U.P
6. Jai Dev Kapoor – Hardoi, U.P
7. S.N. Pande – Cawnpore, U.P.
8. Kishori Lal – Quetta, Baluchistan
9. Des Raj – Sialkot, guardian outside India
(1) That five of the petitioners are unrepresented accused defending their case themselves.
(2) That for the reasons stated above in paras 3+4, the petitioners can make arrangement for their defence only through their friends, attorneys and members of defence committee.
(3) That it is therefore prayed that in the interest of justice, the learned court be pleased to grant the petitioners following facilities-
I. Interviews with friends, attorneys, legal advisors and members of defence committee members and relatives in court during lunch hours or after the rising of the court during the one hour stay after accused for their mutual consultation
II. Instructions should be sent to the Supdts. of Borstal and Central jails for allowing interviews with the same.
III. Subject to accommodation the legal advisors of the unrepresented accused be given seats in the body of the court room.
IV. Recognition of the defence committee and permission to two members of committee to sit in the body of the court subject to accommodation.
(1) That it is prayed that in view of the large number of prosecution exhibits of this case, one of the day of the week preferably Saturday be set for the examination of the exhibits by the accused and their counsels.
Hand written and signed by-
1. Bhagat Singh
2. Bejoy Kumar Sinha
3. Ajay Kumar Ghosh
5. Jai Deva Kapor
6. Kishori Lal Ratan
7. Prem Datt Varma
8. Shiv Varma
9. Kamalnath Tewari
10. Des Raj
8th May 1930
Note: Both the letters are included in a book, The Bhagat Singh Reader, authored by Prof Chaman Lal, Dean, Faculty of Languages, Panjab University Chandigarh.