Calcutta, July 23: The Bengal government’s pleader today expressed inability to articulate in court the administration’s stand on Tapas Paul’s speech in which the Trinamul MP had threatened to personally shoot rivals and send his boys to rape their families.
The extraordinary statement on one of the most outrageous speeches recorded in recent memory was preceded by the following interaction in Calcutta High Court today.
Justice Dipankar Dutta gave all sides — the lawyers representing the petitioners, the state government and Paul — the chance to submit their views.
Justice Dutta to Aniruddha Chatterjee, the counsel appearing for petitioner and social worker Biplab Chowdhury: “How was your client affected by the MP’s speech?”
Chatterjee: “My client is a responsible citizen. The MP had threatened to kill members of the Opposition parties and set his boys on women to rape them. As a law-abiding citizen, my client had lodged a complaint against the MP as he was apprehending chaos. But till date, police have not taken any action.”
Justice Dutta: “What does your client want?”
Chatterjee: “A CID probe into this matter.”
Subrata Mukhopadhyay, a counsel who had moved one of the two PILs: “The MP’s speech is dangerous to society. As the police are mum on the issue, the court should interfere in the matter and ask the appropriate authority to start criminal proceedings against the MP.”
Justice Dutta to public prosecutor Manjit Singh: “Have you seen the footage?”
Singh: “Yes, on news channels. The administration cannot take cognisance of the issue as there is no provision in any law to initiate proceedings for making such comments.”
Justice Dutta: “Are you sure about it? Can I record your statement?”
Justice Dutta to government pleader Ashok Banerjee: “Are you of the same opinion as the public prosecutor?”
Banerjee: “I am not much aware of criminal laws. So I should not comment on the issue.”
Justice Dutta, after recording the public prosecutor’s submission: “Is it a fact that the police cannot take suo motu cognisance in the matter? An MP is not a street boy or a loafer. As an MP, he makes the law in Parliament. If he makes such comments, isn’t there any law to take action against him?”
(The judge then looked for the counsel appearing for the MP. Pointing his finger at Rajdeep Majumdar, who was seen at Trinamul’s July 21 rally, the government pleader said: “He is appearing for Paul.”)
Justice Dutta: “What is your opinion?”
Majumdar: “The MP has already prayed for apology for the mistake he had committed. So, the court should forgive him.”
Justice Dutta: “How can you say that? After killing a person and raping a woman, a person cannot beg for apology. There are certain crimes where seeking an apology is not enough.”
Majumdar: “But my client actually did not want to mean that. My Lord, my client has made the speech on the spur of the moment. So, this should not be viewed as cognisable.”
(If an offence is treated as cognisable, the police can start a criminal case and initiate proceedings against the accused.)
Justice Dutta to government pleader Banerjee: “What is your stand on the issue?”
Banerjee: “I may be the government pleader but how can I take the risk to inform the court of the government’s stand on the issue?”
Justice Dutta: “Then I have to see the CDÖ. I think there are certain laws on the basis of which the police could take action against the MP.”
Singh, the public prosecutor: “Please see it in your chamber.”
Justice Dutta: “You have said just now that what the MP had done was not a cognisable offence. Then why are you objecting to me viewing it in the open court?”
(The judge played the CD on his laptop in the courtroom).
Majumdar, Paul’s lawyer: “On that day, Paul was very much upset. Whatever he had said was primarily due to excitement. So please do not take cognisance in this matter.”
The judge said he would deliver the judgment on a later date.