An allegation is not a proof of guilt. This is an axiom that seems to be honoured only in the breach in India, and especially in West Bengal. The latest victim of the prevailing allegation raj is Asok Ganguly, the chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, who resigned from his post. There are some allegations existing against Mr Ganguly; no formal charges have been filed, no cases have been registered. But there has been an ongoing campaign against Mr Ganguly to make him resign or to have him removed from his position. Mr Ganguly said that he put in his papers to preserve his dignity against the “hostile attitude” of the state government. The latter has been proceeding on the assumption that Mr Ganguly is guilty even before anything has been proved against him. His innocence has not been assumed but his guilt. This is contrary to the philosophical premise on which the rule of law is based in India. Under the circumstances, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that Mr Ganguly has been at the receiving end of a vendetta. What is equally important is that there have been so few voices raised to say that Mr Ganguly has practically being declared to be guilty without a proper trial. This is not a good omen for democracy.
Mr Ganguly’s role as a judge and the chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission was commendable. He was both an alert and an independent chairman. Some of his verdicts and observations did not show up either the Central or the state government in a very good light. This was a healthy sign for democracy. Within the political class there has been a growing sense of alarm at the activism displayed by the judiciary. It is possible that Mr Ganguly was made a convenient target by politicians to hit back at the judiciary. One of the worst ills that can affect the practice of democracy is uni-polar politics. Unfortunately this ambience prevails in West Bengal at the moment. After the overwhelming triumph of Mamata Banerjee, political opposition and shows of dissent have practically disappeared. This may be a satisfying position for Ms Banerjee and her party, but an unhealthy situation for democracy. Mr Ganguly was one individual who, in his official capacity, often articulated a contrary position to the one voiced by the government. His resignation and the tarnishing of his image silence one more source of dissent and independence.