Jump to: navigation, search

Pal, Justice Radhabinod


Pal, Justice Radhabinod (1886-1967) judge of the International Military Trubunal for the Far East (1946-1948), academician, judge of the Calcutta High Court (1941-43), Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University (1944-46), chairman of the International Law Commission (1958-1962), a judge of' the International Court of Justice at the Hague (1957).

After the surrender of Japan at the end of the Second World War, the Allied Powers organized a trial of those Japanese leaders and generals who, according to them, were supposed to be responsible for Japan’s involvement in the Pacific War as well as for building the militarist Japan in the 1930s and early 1940s. General Douglas McArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers established the International Military Tribunal for the Far East by the authority invested upon him by the Potsdam Declaration. Subsequently, a trial (1946-1948) was held of all the Japanese major war ‘criminals’ in which eight of Japan’s top ranking leaders got death sentences, while 17 others were sent to imprisonment.  

Radhabinod Pal

In all, eleven judges were appointed to constitute the tribunal. The majority members of the tribunal found the Japanese' leaders guilty of the charges of war crimes and sentenced them under the international law. But' Dr. Radhabinod Pal, the Judge from India, could not agree with the majority judgment. He gave a dissentient judgment and refused to agree with the majority judgment. In his long four hundred page judgment, Pal showed that the charges brought against the defendants by the prosecution were not legally tenable. He further remarked that the evidences were all tenuous and reflected the attitudes and whims of the victors.

This dissentient judgment of Justice Radhabinod Pal at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East is of unique importance in the history of international law on the one hand and war and peace on the other. It gives a documented interpretation of the legal basis of the post Second World War history of war and peace. The basic question of his dissent was whether the initiators, who fought against Japan, may have any moral and juristic right to establish a tribunal of their own choice and try their fallen enemies in their own terms. Japan had no role in constituting the war crime tribunal. Justice Radhabinod Pal, however, refused to be guided by the trial guidelines and rules framed by the winning party unilaterally. One Judge from the Netherlands and another from the Philippines gave moral support to Justice Radhabinod Pal though they eventually rallied round the majority judgment. Pal's dissentiant judgment has been interpreted by the majority judges as a reflection of an anti-western sentiment of an Indian nationalist opposing European domination of Asia. Pal's further submission was that international law as developed after the First World War was not taken into much cognizance in the Tokyo Trial.'

Radhabinod Pal was born on 27 January 1886 at village Salimpur in Kushtia district, Bangladesh. He passed the Entrance Examination in 1903, and F.A Examination in 1905 from Rajshahi College with distinctions. Radhabinod Pal took his BA Honors (1907) and MA (1908) in Mathematics from the Presidency College, Calcutta. Pal worked as a clerk at the Allahabad Accountant General Office before he took his BL degree in 1911. Pal later served as a Lecturer in Mathematics at the Ananda Mohon College, Mymensingh. Alongside his teaching, Pal also practiced law at the Mymensingh Bar. While in Mymensingh, Pal further stretched his legal qualifications by obtaining the LLM degree (1920) from Calcutta University. He stood First in the First Class. Pal then moved to Calcutta to build a legal career in the High Court.

In 1924, Radhabinod Pal received his PhD degree in law (LLD) from the Calcutta University. The subject of his Ph.D thesis was Hindu Philosophy of Law in Vedic and Post-Vedic Times Prior to the Institute of Manu. Dr. Pal taught law at the University Law College during the period between 1923 and 1936. His image as a legal authority reached far and wide. He gave the most prestigious Tagore law Lecture three times, the first in 1925, the second in 1930 and third in 1938. The subjects of his lectures were:' Law of Primogeniture with Special Reference to India, Ancient and Modern; History of Hindu Law in the Vedic and Post-Vedic Times Down to the Institutes of Manu and Crimes in International Relations.

Radhabinod Pal became joint President of the International Academy of Comparative Law and a member of the International Law Association in 1937. His high image as a legal scholar earned him the prestigious position of Legal Advisor to the Government of India (1941). Soon after, Pal was appointed a judge of the Calcutta High Court and served there till July 1943. In March 1944, Pal was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. He retired from active life in 1946 and came back to Salimpur village home to live there for the rest of his life.'

But one event took him to an unimagined sphere in his life. While sojourning at his village home, Justice Radhabinod Pal got an invitation in April 1946 to join as one of the judges of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. His dissentious judgment, although not palatable to the victors (Allied Powers) in the World War II, brought him a hero's popularity with the conquered and subject nations of Asia.

In 1952, Radhabinod Pal was elected a member of the United Nations International Law Commission. He was elected its second vice chairman in 1954 and the Commission's chairman in 1958. In 1962, he was again elected chairman of the Commission for a second time. In 1957, the UN General Assembly elected him a judge of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. In 1959, the Government of India honored him by awarding the Order of Padma-Vibhusan and appointed him National Professor of Jurisprudence. In the same year he was elected a member of the American Society of International Law.

Among the major works of Dr. Radhabinod Pal mention may be made of The Hindu Philosophy of Law in the Vedic Age; Law of Limitation; The Law of Income Tax; Law of Primogeniture (With Special emphasis on India); Crimes in International Relations; and The History of Hindu Law in the Vedic Age.

Justice Radhabinod Pal visited Japan several times after the Tokyo War Crime Trial. In October 1952, at the invitation of Yasaburo Shimonaka, the great humanist of Japan, Pal visited Japan and delivered lectures on peace in different gatherings across Japan. In November 1952, at the Asia Conference on World Federation and Justice, Pal was elected president of the Conference. At the end of the Conference the Hiroshima Declaration (of peace) was adopted. The Nihon University of Japan honored him with the title of LLD (Honoris causa). The Emperor of Japan conferred upon him the First Order of the Secret Treasure. The Metropolis Governors of the two cities granted him the Freedom of the City of Tokyo and Kyoto. During this period (1952-1966) Judge Pal lectured in the Japanese Diet and at the Tokyo and Waseda Universities. Justice Pal passed away on 10 January 1967 at his residence in Calcutta. [Sirajul Islam]