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Paul action? Rights panel has no plan

- Lack of faith in ‘toothless’ watchdog

Calcutta, July 4: The Bengal human rights commission has not received any complaint against Trinamul MP Tapas Paul for his rape-and-murder threat, a pointer to the loss of faith in the panel that has been rendered toothless by the government’s delay in appointing key members.

Commission sources said today that the receiving section of the rights panel had not got a single complaint against Paul, several of whose inflammatory speeches have been reported by the media. TV channels have been airing video footage of Paul’s speeches since Monday and there has been a nationwide uproar.

The Telegraph has learnt that the West Bengal Human Rights Commission has “no plans whatsoever” of taking suo motu cognisance of the Trinamul actor-MP’s comments. “As of this afternoon, the commission has no plans whatsoever of acting suo motu on the Tapas Paul issue,” a panel source said.

Asked about the panel’s inaction on the MP’s remarks, former commission chief, Justice Asok Ganguly, declined comment. “I am surprised to know that nobody has approached the commission on this issue yet,” he said.

The Opposition has alleged that the commission, which had made several stern recommendations till the end of last year under the leadership of Justice Ganguly, has been reduced to “a toothless watchdog”.

The commission, which used to conduct at least 10 to 15 hearings a month till last December, has heard just seven cases in the past six months.

The sources said today that the commission was yet to recommend action in rights violation cases this year.

Six months have passed since Ganguly’s resignation but the government is yet to find a full-time replacement, who has to be a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a retired high court chief justice.

Former director-general of Bengal police Naparajit Mukherjee, the commission’s acting chairperson, could not be contacted by this newspaper even after waiting for nearly two hours at his office in Salt Lake’s Purta Bhavan today.

The other member, Mani Shankar Dwivedy, a retired West Bengal Judicial Services officer, was not in office today. The post of the third decision-making member of the panel has been lying vacant for over seven months.

“Why should anybody have faith in a rights panel manned by sycophants?” said Arunavo Ghosh, a senior Calcutta High Court advocate.

NGOs such as the Association of People for Democratic Reforms (APDR) have approached the National Human Rights Commission with their complaint against Paul. The APDR has cited the state panel’s “inertia under Mukherjee as the reason for approaching the national body directly.

Ranjit Sur, the secretary of the APDR’s BBD Bag chapter, said the organisation had “no faith” in the state commission.

“There have been several incidents of human rights violation during Mukherjee’s tenure. People died in police firing. But there were no recommendations by the panel,” Sur said. “We have decided to boycott the state rights body unless a full-time judicial chairman is appointed.”

The leader of the Opposition, Surjya Kanta Mishra, said there was “no point” in approaching the state panel as long as Mukherjee was at its helm.

“The body has lost all credibility since the resignation of Justice Ganguly and the appointment of Mukherjee. The state of dormancy of the rights panel suits the government perfectly,” Mishra said.