It’s not clear who will have the last laugh in Mamata versus the cartoonist.
The chief justice of the Calcutta High Court just gave the government pleader a dressing down in court because it had ignored the state’s own human rights commission’s recommendations.
That commission had said that the government should pay damages of Rs 50,000 each to Ambikesh Mahapatra, the Jadavpur University professor who was arrested for circulating the dushtu lok vanish cartoon featuring Mamata Banerjee, Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Roy and to Mahapatra's 72-year-old neighbour who was also picked up with him by the police in the middle of the night. It had also said action should be taken against the police officers, namely the officer-in-charge at the thana and the sub-inspector who had gone to the housing complex to make the arrests.
The state government did zilch.
“State governments are not bound to implement the human rights commission’s recommendation,” a government pleader told the court according to The Telegraph.
The Chief Justice’s retort was sharp.
“This is not acceptable. In other states, the government treats the human rights commission’s recommendations with respect. Can you cite another instance where a man has to move the high court because the state government has refused to obey the commission’s recommendations?”
Whether it’s refusing to file FIRs in a rape case or being extra pro-active in a cartoon case, the biggest hurdle to any sense of fair play is the police. That’s why during a debate on capital punishment at the Kolkata Literary Meet, Vrinda Grover, the head of MARG, told the audience “Send 20 cops to jail this year (for refusing to file FIRs) and they will start filing FIRs.”
It’s not surprising that the state government wants to control the police machinery. But when it ignores its own human rights commission (headed by a judge the Chief Minister herself appointed) it drops even the pretence of windowdressing.
By calling the head of the commission, retired Supreme Court justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly, “a very good person” who “doesn’t know what is his jurisdiction”, Mamata is making it clear that as far as she is concerned she is judge, jury and executioner-in-chief.
Of course the same government is not shy about seeking the court’s help when it needs it. Former CM Buddhadev Bhattacharjee has apparently been sent a legal notice for casting aspersions on Didi’s honesty in a television interview. Trinanool also wants to send a legal notice to opposition leader Surya Kanta Mishra for raising questions about the proceeds from the sales of Mamata’s paintings.
Ironically, the cops could themselves file a defamation suit against Mamata for her recent outburst against them saying “chabkano uchit apnader” (you all should be whipped). Now it would be one thing if that was for any dereliction of duty such as not filing a rape victim’s FIR, or for over-zealous roughing up of a protester. But Didi apparently exploded because of the delay in getting her car to her after a visit to the Kolkata Book Fair. But it’s unlikely any policeman will dare to bell that cat. Anyway according to the Times of India, West Bengal has the worst ratio of cops to citizens (1 for 1,658) so the citizenry’s lack of faith in police is not unwarranted.
Trinamool obviously is in no mood to restore the citizen’s faith in the government. It is too busy gloating because the Congress has been caught vandalizing the district magistrate’s office in Murshidabad. That mob was led by none other than the new Union minister of state for railways Adhir Chowdhury. Just as Trinamool’s Mukul Roy told the Ananda Bazar Patrika that the “whipping story” was a story made up by newspapers, the Congress’ Pradip Bhattacharya denied there was any vandalism or violence in Murshidabad blithely ignoring all video footage of broken glass, bricks, stones and a wrecked podium. "I categorically say there was no violence," he told PTI.
Pritish Nandy tweeted “West Bengal has gone in for a free for all. The CPM went berserk. The TMC has proved it can do worse. And now the Congress begins.”
A monkey cap on all their houses I say. The joke is on us.