Cyber slur links last three CMs

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 14.04.12
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A police crackdown on persons lampooning political leaders may be uncommon in Bengal but not unheard of.

In 1999, the then chief minister, Jyoti Basu, had ordered the arrest of entrepreneur Shamit Khemka for setting up a website, with a Bengali expletive as its name, that was not only critical of him and his son but also posted adverse comments about Bengalis.

Questions were raised about the step as Basu could have slapped a defamation case against Khemka and fought it out in court instead of putting the young man behind bars.

The 25-year-old computer professional was arrested in his south Calcutta residence and charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including “promoting enmity between classes”, which is non-bailable and could lead to three years’ imprisonment.

“Curiously, the police had not charged Khemka for defaming Basu and other CPM leaders on the website,” said a senior officer of Calcutta police.

Khemka spent about 35 days in jail. The police claimed that the case against him was still on 13 years later.

The entrepreneur subsequently moved out of Bengal and set up a company in Noida, which is now one of the major outsourcing service providers in the country.

For Bengal, the offence was the first of its kind. Neither the police nor the judiciary had a precedent to work on. A year later, in 2000, the Information Technology (IT) Act came into existence. Ambikesh Mahapatra has been slapped with a case under that act.

“Besides the IPC, Mahapatra has been charged with clause B under Section 66A of the IT Act, which deals with sending offensive messages through communication services,” said an officer of Purba Jadavapur police station, where the 52-year-old professor was booked.

Six years after Khemka’s arrest, three fake profiles of the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee were found on a popular online social network.

Officers from the city police’s detective department and the CID approached the website’s US-based headquarters to block the profiles after they started attracting a lot of visitors, from criminals to college students. People started posting requests for jobs and other favours, sometimes in jest. The profiles were later removed.

“It was a simple case of impersonation different from Mahapatra’s offence,” said an officer.