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HC seeks ‘arrest’ report

- Ambikesh harass case
Ambikesh Mahapatra

The high court has directed the state to clarify a “discrepancy” between a report by the state home secretary and the statement of a police officer in the Ambikesh Mahapatra case.

Mahapatra, a chemistry professor at Jadavpur University, and neighbour Subrata Sengupta were assaulted by a mob in April 2012 for circulating an Internet joke lampooning chief minister Mamata Banerjee and later allegedly arrested.

“The home secretary in his report stated that police had rescued Mahapatra from a mob near his house and took him to East Jadavpur police station. The investigating officer in the case, however, has deposed before the state human rights commission that Mahapatra was arrested at his house,” Justice Dipankar Dutta observed on Thursday.

“It is a matter of surprise that the report placed by home secretary before this court and report of the HRC (human rights commission) are not tallying. Please clarify the matter,” the judge ruled before adjourning the hearing in the case to February 20.

Justice Dutta was hearing a petition by Mahapatra seeking implementation of a recommendation of the rights panel that the state government pay Rs 50,000 to him and his septuagenarian neighbour each for their “harassment”.

The commission had also recommended departmental proceedings against two police officers of East Jadavpur police station — Milan Kanti Das and Sanjay Biswas — for “arresting” Mahapatra and Sengupta, allegedly at the behest of a local Trinamul leader.

Additional officer-in-charge Milan Kanti Das, who had probed the case, deposed before the rights panel that Mahapatra and Subrata Sengupta had been “arrested from the spot”.

During his deposition before the rights panel in connection with the case, home secretary Basudeb Banerjee had said a person rescued from a mob was brought to a police station for three reasons.

“First, it ensures his safety and security. Secondly, it gives the police sufficient time and opportunity to assess whether allowing him to return immediately to his place of work or residence, without making any suitable arrangements, would be detrimental to his safety and security. Finally, it provides the person an opportunity to regain a level of mental composure to enable him to lodge a complaint, if any, against the alleged perpetrators,” Banerjee had said.

He had conceded that there was no provision for protective custody. “As such, although there is no provision of any sort of ‘protective custody’ in the law, the concept should not remain limited to a minor or a lady who is trafficked or a person who is insane, but should also extend to a person rescued from an agitated mob.”