Social media users are sharing a post related to the death sentence given to Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, by then-Chief Justice of Punjab High Court, Justice GD Khosla, who presided over the case.
What does the post say?: It mentions Justice GD Khosla’s book, ‘The Murder of Mahatma and Other Cases from a Judge’s Diary’, mentioning his account of Godse’s trial.
Referring to an excerpt from the book on pages 305 and 306, it mentions that the people present in the court were moved by Godse’s long statement defending himself, adding that if they had been “asked to give a verdict on Godse, they would have declared Godse ‘innocent’ by an overwhelming majority.”
According to the post, Khosla was also affected by Godse’s statement and “did not want to give him death sentence (sic)” but says that he was “forced to do so under the pressure of the government and administration.”
It further says that Khosla knew he had committed a “sin” by giving Godse a death sentence, because of which “a terrible punishment” awaited him after his death. “I had given death sentence to an innocent and great patriot for which God will never forgive me (sic),” it concludes.
The Quint received a query regarding this claim on our WhatsApp tipline.
Is it true?: No, the book makes no mention of Justice Khosla feeling pressured to give Godse and Apte death sentences.
While it narrates Khosla’s experience of feeling sympathy among the audience in the court, it only talks about letting Godse speak his mind and the time when Godse was actually hanged.
How did we find out?: Using relevant keywords, we looked for a digital copy of 'The Murder of Mahatma and Other Cases from a Judge’s Diary’, written by GD Khosla. We came across a copy on Wayback Machine, an internet archiving website.
After going through pages 305 and 306, we saw that Khosla spoke about being confident in “the moral side” of his action.
These pages spoke about Godse representing himself in court, “making full use of his talents” as a writer and an orator. Khosla wrote that Godse made an “impassioned appeal to Hindus” to fight for and to preserve their motherland, reciting verses from holy scriptures and the Bhagavad Gita.
“The audience was visibly and audibly moved,” Khosla wrote, calling the moment in court melodramatic, like “a scene out of a Hollywood feature film.”
Here, he wrote about how the people present in the court, if they were a jury, “they would have brought in a verdict of ‘not guilty’ by an overwhelming majority.”
Khosla’s personal observation on these pages was limited to his interruption of Godse’s statement to point out “the irrelevance of what he was saying,” but his colleagues and audience wanted to hear what he had to say.
After this, Khosla wrote that he said to himself, “The man is going to die soon. He is past doing any harm. He should be allowed to let off steam for the last time.”
Throughout the book, there is no mention of Khosla being pressured by the government or administration to give Godse a death sentence.
On earlier pages, Khosla speaks about his hesitation in giving people death sentences, fearing that in his inexperience, he could possibly sentence “an innocent man to death.”
“The capital punishment is so completely irrevocable and ruthless that I have always felt a certain measure of reluctance in imposing the extreme penalty,” Khosla wrote.
Conclusion: Former Chief Justice of the Punjab High Court GD Khosla did not say he was pressured into giving a death sentence to Nathuram Godse.
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