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Adrift panel benefits govt

Calcutta, July 1: Many bureaucrats and Opposition leaders today felt the need for a proactive human rights commission in the aftermath of Trinamul Congress MP Tapas Paul’s inflammatory comments.

The state’s rights panel has been lying virtually defunct for six months because the government has been allegedly dragging its feet on selecting a full-time chief.

The bureaucrats, Opposition leaders and advocates of Calcutta High Court said a fully functioning West Bengal State Human Rights Commission could have taken suo motu cognisance of Paul’s remarks, which several lawyers said were a “gross violation” of human rights, and recommend action.

At a public meeting in Nadia’s Chowmaha, the actor-MP had threatened Opposition activists with rape and annihilation of their families.

The rights panel has been lying dormant since its chairman, Justice (retired) Asok Kumar Ganguly, quit in January.

“It (not selecting the chairperson) is part of a strategy of the Mamata Banerjee government. An inactive rights panel helps the ruling party avert stern recommendations,” CPM MP Mohammad Salim said.

Former state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya echoed Salim.

Former Bengal director-general of police Naparajit Mukherjee is now heading the commission as its acting chairperson. According to the commission’s statute, a retired Supreme Court judge or a retired high court chief justice can be appointed as the chairperson.

The post of one of the three decision-making members of the rights panel has been lying vacant. Other than Mukherjee, Mani Shankar Dwivedy, a retired Bengal judicial services officer, is the other member of the panel.

According to sources in the commission, the panel has neither conducted any major hearing nor taken suo motu cognisance of any incident that could be interpreted as a violation of human rights in the past few months.

Senior advocate Gitanath Ganguly, the executive chairman of the Legal Aid Services (West Bengal), said the situation of the rights panel was “dangerous” for the people of Bengal.

According to him, under “normal” circumstances, Paul’s comments could have been construed as a rights violation and probed by the human rights commission.

“What Paul said in his speech would have faced censorship even if it had been part of the screenplay of one of his films…. A judicial chairperson is a must (for the commission). The situation is really unfortunate,” Gitanath Ganguly said this evening.

Mukherjee, the acting chairperson, was not available for comment.

Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly had invited the displeasure of the government by recommending compensation to a professor who was arrested for allegedly forwarding a Facebook post lampooning the chief minister.

A senior home department official said the government was yet to get a “suitable candidate” for the chairman’s post.

Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly declined comment on the commission today.