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Mamata turns up rights heat

Calcutta, Dec. 6: Mamata Banerjee today wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee a second time in two days, asking that former Supreme Court judge Asok Kumar Ganguly be “removedů at the earliest” as chairperson of the state human rights commission.

A law intern has accused Ganguly of sexually harassing her.

Mamata had yesterday said in a Facebook post that she had written to the President earlier in the day calling for “appropriate action” against Ganguly for the “grave misconduct committed by him”.

In another Facebook post this evening, she wrote: “Today, it is reported in the media that the three-judge Panel of the Supreme Court has indicted him, prima facie, guilty of the charges levelled against him.”

“On this basis,” she added, “I have sent another letter to the President of India for taking urgent necessary action, so that Shri Ganguly is removed from his office at the earliest.”

Today, speaking in the Assembly at the closing ceremony of the House’s platinum jubilee celebrations, Mamata had called for punishment for Ganguly without naming him.

“It is our responsibility to take action against those who violate human rights,” she had said.

Last week, after Ganguly’s name was disclosed in connection with the sexual harassment complaint, Trinamul MP and lawyer Kalyan Banerjee had demanded that he step down from the rights body.

Ganguly was appointed to the post after the change of guard in Bengal. He had a falling out with the chief minister after the police arrested Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and retired engineer Subrata Sengupta in April last year on the charge of circulating an Internet cartoon lampooning Mamata.

The state human rights commission had recommended a compensation of Rs 50,000 to each of them.

Later, the commission further upset Mamata by recommending an award of Rs 1 lakh for the next of kin of SFI activist Sudipta Gupta, who had died while being taken to a police lock-up.

Mamata was also angered by the rights commission’s rulings in several other cases. For instance, it recommended a Rs 2 lakh compensation for Shiladitya Chowdhury, a West Midnapore farmer whom Mamata had labelled a Maoist for questioning her at a government event.

The strained ties between Mamata and Ganguly became clear during an event in the Assembly in August last year when, without naming him, the chief minister suggested he was not aware of “his jurisdiction”.