The Mamata Banerjee government has told the state human rights commission that it would “consider” its recommendations on professor Ambikesh Mahapatra’s arrest within six weeks, the move apparently triggered by “mounting pressure” from several quarters.
The government has been sitting on the recommendations since August 13, the day the panel suggested proceedings against two officers of East Jadavpur police station — Milan Kumar Das and Sanjay Biswas — within six weeks for arresting Mahapatra and a neighbour for circulating an online joke on the chief minister. The panel had also recommended that the state pay the duo Rs 50,000 each in compensation.
“The state home department today sent me a letter, saying it would consider my recommendations within six weeks,” said former Supreme Court justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly, the chairman of the commission.
The letter comes a day before the high court is set to take up a public interest litigation filed by a lawyer, seeking an order for the implementation of the recommendations. The division bench of Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi admitted the petition on Thursday.
“The letter (seeking six weeks) is nothing unusual.... These things cannot be done in a hurry,” a senior state government official said.
Mahapatra, who teaches physical chemistry at Jadavpur University, still hopes for justice, though the rights panel’s six-week deadline had passed around five months ago. “The government sat on the panel’s suggestions for more than five months. Now, it wants six more weeks. Hopefully, suitable action will finally be taken,” he told Metro.
Following the teacher’s plea for intervention, the Prime Minister’s office had on December 18 written to the state government, urging it to take “necessary actions” in the matter. Mahapatra had asked for the charges against him be dropped.
The home department requested the personnel and administrative reforms department on February 11 to “take an immediate redressive action”, which would mean implementing the steps suggested by the panel. “However, given the chief minister’s stand on the issue, nothing has been done,” said an official.
“First, there were protests by the civil society. Then there was criticism by the press council chairman, followed by the PMO nudge. And now, there is this petition in the high court. The government is under mounting pressure from multiple quarters,” said an official.
Mamata’s stand was evident at a seminar in the Assembly on August 14. Without naming Justice Ganguly, she had said: “I brought a very good person.... But then what did I see — oh God, he has no clue at all! He writes as if he is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or the President of the country! Doesn’t even know... what his jurisdiction is!” she had said.