Radhabinod Pal

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Radha-Binod Pal
Monument honouring Radha Binod Pal, at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, Japan
Occupation Jurist
Nationality Indian
Alma mater Presidency College, Calcutta (now Kolkata), and the Law College of the University of Calcutta
Children Prashanto Pal

Justice Radha Binod Pal (27 January 1886 – 10 January 1967) was an Indian jurist. He was the Indian member appointed to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East's trials of Japanese war crimes committed during the second World War. Among all the judges of the tribunal, he was the only one who submitted a judgment which insisted all defendants were not guilty. The Yasukuni Shrine and the Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku Shrine has monuments specially dedicated to Justice Pal.


Justice Radhabinod Pal was born in 1886 in a small village called 'Salimpur' under 'Taragunia' union of 'Daulatpur' Upazilla of Kushtia District in India (present day Bangladesh).

He studied mathematics and constitutional law at Presidency College, Calcutta (now Kolkata), and the Law College of the University of Calcutta. He worked as professor at the Law College of the University of Calcutta from 1923 till 1936. He became a judge of Calcutta High Court in 1941 and Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta in 1944. The Indian government installed him as a legal adviser in 1927 and dispatched him to the Tokyo Trials in 1946. He delivered one of the three dissenting opinions of the Tribunal. He found all the defendants not guilty of Class A war crimes, even though he condemned the Japanese war-time conduct as "devilish and fiendish". He was highly critical of conspiracy and he was unable to apply such a new crime as waging aggressive wars and committing crimes against peace and humanity—Class A war crimes created by the Allies after the war—ex post facto. His reasoning influenced the dissenting opinions of the judges for the Netherlands and France.

Following the war-crimes trials, he was elected to the United Nations' International Law Commission, where he served from 1952 to 1966.

He is the father of renowned barrister, late Pranab Kumar Pal and the father-in-law of renowned lawyer Dr. Debi Prasad Pal.

War Crimes Trial Dissent

While finding that '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', he produced a judgment questioning the legitimacy of the tribunal and its rulings. He held the view that the legitimacy of the tribunal was suspect and questionable, because the spirit of retribution, and not impartial justice, was the underlying criterion for passing the judgment.

He concluded:

"I would hold that every one of the accused must be found not guilty of every one of the charges in the indictment and should be acquitted on all those charges."

Pal never intended to offer a juridical argument on whether a sentence of not guilty would have been a correct one. However, he argued that the United States had clearly provoked the war with Japan and expected Japan to act (Zinn, 411).

Pal believed that the Tokyo Trial was incapable of passing a just sentence. He considered the trial to be unjust and unreasonable, contributing nothing to lasting peace. According to his view, the trial was the judgment of the vanquished by the victors; such proceedings, even if clothed in the garb of law, resulted in nothing but the satisfaction of the desire for vengeance. In his lone dissent, he refers to the trial as a "sham employment of legal process for the satisfaction of a thirst for revenge." According to Norimitsu Onishi, while he fully acknowledged Japan’s war atrocities — including the Nanjing massacre — he said they were covered in the Class B and Class C trials.[1]

Furthermore, he believed that the exclusion of Western colonialism and the use of the atom bomb by the United States from the list of crimes, and judges from the vanquished nations on the bench, signified the "failure of the Tribunal to provide anything other than the opportunity for the victors to retaliate." [2] In this he was not alone among Indian jurists of the time, one prominent Calcutta barrister writing that the Tribunal was little more than "a sword in a wig". Fear of American nuclear power was an international phenomenon following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Judge Pal's typewritten book-length opposition to the decision was formally prohibited from publication by the Occupation forces and was released in 1952 after the occupation ended and a treaty recognizing the legitimacy of the Tokyo Trials was signed by Japan. Pal's publication had also been prohibited in Great Britain, and it remained unpublished in the United States as well.[citation needed] However, a portion of his "original" judgment and copies of the original text in modern editions are available for sale online.

The American occupation of Japan ended in 1952, after Tokyo signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty and accepted the Tokyo trials' verdict. The end of the occupation also lifted a ban on the publication of Judge Pal’s 1,235-page dissent, which Japanese nationalists used as the basis of their argument that the Tokyo trials were biased.[1][3][4]

Political background

Pal's lone dissenting opinion, that the Japanese soldiers were only following orders and that the acts committed by them weren't illegal in an indictable sense, was dismissed by the west as a biased judgement by another Asian judge. Pal wrote that the Tokyo Trials were an exercise in victor's justice and that the Allies were equally culpable in acts such as strategic bombings of civilian targets. In 1966, Pal visited Japan and said that he had admired Japan from an early age for being the only Asian nation that "stood up against the West". In spite of his personal opinions about Japan, he deemed it appropriate to dissent from the judgement of his "learned brothers" to embody his love for absolute truth and justice.[3]

Significance in Indo-Japanese relations

Monument of Radha Binod Pal at Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku Shrine.

In 1966, the Emperor of Japan conferred upon Pal the First Class of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. Pal is revered by Japanese nationalists and a monument dedicated to him stands on the grounds of the Yasukuni Shrine.[5] The monument was erected after Pal's death.

Justice Pal's dissent is frequently mentioned by Indian diplomats and political leaders in the context of Indo-Japanese friendship and solidarity. For example, on 29 April 2005 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to it as follows, in his remarks at a banquet in New Delhi in honor of the visiting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi:

"It is a noteworthy fact that though we have gone through various phases in our relationship, in times of difficulty, we have stood by each other. It is important to recall that India refused to attend the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951 and signed a separate Peace Treaty with Japan in 1952".[6] This, Pandit Nehru felt, gave to Japan a proper position of honour and equality among the community of free nations. In that Peace Treaty, India waived all reparation claims against Japan. The dissenting judgement of Justice Radhabinod Pal is well-known to the Japanese people and will always symbolize the affection and regard our people have for your country."[7]

On December 14, 2006, Singh, made a speech in the Japanese Diet. He stated:

"The principled judgment of Justice Radhabinod Pal after the War is remembered even today in Japan. Ladies and Gentlemen, these events reflect the depth of our friendship and the fact that we have stood by each other at critical moments in our history."[8]

On August 23, 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Pal's son, Prasanta, in Kolkata, during his day long visit to the city. Prasanta Pal, now an octogenarian, presented prime minister Abe with four photographs of his father, of which two photographs were of Radhabinod Pal with Nobusuke Kishi. They chatted for half an hour at a city hotel. [9]


"Questions of law are not decided in an intellectual quarantine area in which legal doctrine and the local history of the dispute alone are retained and all else is forcibly excluded. We cannot afford to be ignorant of the world in which disputes arise."

"Even contemporary historians could think that 'as for the present war, the Principality of Monaco, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, would have taken up arms against the United States on receipt of such a note (Hull note[10]) as the State Department sent the Japanese Government on the eve of Pearl Harbor.'"

"When time shall have softened passion and prejudice, when Reason shall have stripped the mask from misrepresentation, then Justice, holding evenly her scales, will require much of past censure and praise to change places," Pal quoted Jefferson Davis in the conclusion of the dissent.

"I might mention in this connection that even the published accounts of Nanking 'rape' could not be accepted by the world without some suspicion of exaggeration... Referring to the same incident, Sir Charles Addis on that occasion could say: 'Between two countries at war there was always a danger that one or other of the combatants would seek to turn public opinion in his favour by resort to a propaganda in which incidents, inseparable alas from all hostilities, were magnified and distorted for the express purpose of inflaming prejudice and passion and obscuring the real issues of the conflict.'" (page 606 of his Dissent)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Onishi, Norimitsu (2007-08-31). "Decades After War Trials, Japan Still Honors a Dissenting Judge". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/31/world/asia/31memo.html. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  2. "The Tokyo Judgment and the Rape of Nanking", by Timothy Brook, The Journal of Asian Studies, August 2001.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Timothy Brook, "The Tokyo Judgment and the Rape of Nanking", The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 60, No.3 (Aug, 2001), pp. 673-700
  4. http://www.archives.gov/iwg/japanese-war-crimes/introductory-essays.pdf
  5. "Embattled Japan PM woos back conservatives". Reuters. 2007-08-24. http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSSP23909120070824?pageNumber=2. 
  6. http://meaindia.nic.in/treatiesagreement/1952/chap66.htm
  7. http://pmindia.nic.in/speech/content.asp?id=114
  8. Embassy of India in Japan; Prime Minister's speech to the Japanese Diet on December 14, 2006 (Doc file)
  9. "Abe risks ire by meeting son of Indian judge". Reuters. 2007-08-23. http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-29108320070823?pageNumber=1. 
  10. Hull, Cordell. Outline of Proposed Basis for Agreement between the United States and Japan. Peace and War, United States Foreign Policy 1931-1941. US Govt. Printing Office. Retrieved on February 1, 2013.


  • Pal, Radhabinod. "Judgment." In The Tokyo Judgment: The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) 29 April 1946 - 12 November 1948. Edited by B. V. A. Röling and C. F. Rüter. Amsterdam: University Press Amsterdam, 1977.
  • Nandy, Ashish. The Savage Freud and Other Essays on Possible and Retrievable Selves. Delhi; London: OUP, 1995. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1995.
  • Pal, Radhabinod. "In Defense of Japan's Case 1 & Case 2", Kenkyusha Modern English Readers 17, Kenkyusha Syuppan Co., Tokyo, Japan.

External links