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Naparajit made acting head of rights panel

Calcutta, Jan. 20: The state government has decided to make former director-general of police Naparajit Mukherjee the acting chairperson of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission instead of finding a full-time successor to Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly.

By elevating Mukherjee, who was a member of the panel and is known to be close to the chief minister, the government has made it clear that it is in no hurry to appoint a full-time chairperson, who has to be a retired high court Chief Justice or a retired Supreme Court judge, sources said.

Even as acting chairperson, Mukherjee will not be able to accept complaints or conduct hearings.

Although senior government officials said the search for the next chairperson was on, Nabanna sources said the administration wanted to “go slow” on the process. Ganguly had quit the panel last month after being accused of sexual misconduct by a law intern.

“A full-time chairperson can be appointed within a fortnight. But the government is in no hurry, it seems,” a source said this evening. “The process is likely to be delayed. It seems a full-time chairperson will be appointed after the Lok Sabha elections,” he added.

“There was no need to appoint Mukherjee as a stand-in chairperson if the government had immediate plans of bringing in a full-fledged replacement for Justice Ganguly,” the source added.

Ganguly had invited the displeasure of the government by recommending compensation to farmer Shiladitya Chowdhury, who had been arrested for asking the chief minister at a rally about fertiliser prices, and Ambikesh Mahapatra, the Jadavpur University professor who had allegedly forwarded a Facebook post lampooning Mamata Banerjee.

The commission was reduced to a one-member body following Ganguly’s exit and had to defer hearings indefinitely. After commission member S.N. Roy’s term ended on November 16 last year, the chief minister had appointed Mukherjee in his place. The replacement for the other member, N.C. Sil, is yet to be found.

With just one member, the panel will not be able to make recommendations to the government for lack of a majority to endorse decisions.

“On his own, even as acting chairperson, Mukherjee is not entitled to accept complaints or seek reports from the police,” the source said.