IN LETTER TO PRESIDENT FINDS FAULT WITH PAK VISIT AND ARBITRATOR ROLE
By bappaditya paul
Desperate to get Justice (retired) Asok Kumar Ganguly removed as chairperson of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, the Mamata Banerjee government has zeroed in on him on multiple charges.
In addition to the already reported reference to the alleged sexual harassment of a law intern, the state government has cited to the President of India an “unauthorised” Pakistan tour by Justice Ganguly and his playing the role of “arbitrator for a fee in several matters” to make the case for his removal stronger.
According to a highly-placed source in the state government, of the two letters that Chief Minster Mamata Banerjee wrote to the President on 5 and 6 December seeking Justice Ganguly’s removal, the first letter mentions that the WBHRC chairperson has violated the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 by accepting “foreign hospitality” in Pakistan in June this year without the permission from the appropriate authorities.
The same letter further points out that despite drawing a pay at par with a sitting chief justice of the high court, the WBHRC chairperson played the role of arbitrator in several matters for a fee and thus violated service norms. The arbitration in a case pertaining to Mohun Bagan’s pullout from the i-League match last December has been cited as an example. The reference to the allegation of sexual harassment of the law intern is also there in this letter.
“CM had sent the first letter on the morning of 5 December citing the three points in as much details as possible; till then, the sexual harassment charge was only an allegation. But by the evening that day, the Supreme Court appointed panel had prima facie indicted Justice Ganguly of sexual harassment and hence the CM wrote a second letter to the President on 6 December stressing only on this point for his removal,” the state government source said.
Justice Ganguly had visited Karachi on 4 – 5 June to take part in a seminar that was jointly organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and the Hamdard School of Law in collaboration with the Human Rights Law Network.
In response to a state government query earlier this year, while Justice Ganguly had maintained that it was “a private tour” and hence permission was not required; the government has concluded that he violated FCRA norms even if he had stayed at a foreign national’s personal apartment.
As regards playing the role of arbitrator in cases outside the purview of the WBHRC, the state government says Justice Ganguly could do so without charging fees. “But we have enough evidence to prove that he charged fee for arbitration in a number of matters,” said a state government official.
These include a Rs 50,000 compensation order to Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra who was arrested for allegedly forwarding a cartoon that the Chief Minister found offensive, a Rs 2 lakh compensation order to Midnapore farmer, Shiladitya Choudhury, whom Miss Banerjee had called a “Maoist” when he tried to draw her attention to the rising price of fertilisers at a public meeting.
The WBHRC’s strictures in the Kamduni rape-murder case and the SFI leader Sudipto Gupta’s death in police custody also caused huge embarrassment to the government.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman,India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 12 December 2013 under a different headline)