Press Release- Women groups demand apology from Advocate General West Bengal #Sexist


PRESS RELEASE FROM MAITREE

Date: 07th June 2013, Kolkata

We are writing to you on behalf of Maitree, a women’s rights network of 60 organisations and individual activists based in West Bengal. We strongly condemn the comments made by the Advocate General of West Bengal on 4th June 2013 at the Calcutta High Court regarding the State Election Commission.

The Advocate General’s comment: “The State Election Commission is behaving like a beautiful lady asking for this and that. It is making arbitrary and whimsical desires. Some unreasonable” is sexist and stereotypes women. Instead of legal arguments, the Advocate General distracts from the important political issues and tries to diminish the concerns raised by the Election Commission by resorting to trivial and unparliamentary language to attack his opponent. By doing so, the Advocate General joins a long list of public figures in the country who have made denigrating comments about women which go against the grains of equality and justice.

The comment should be examined within the larger context of increasing violation of women’s rights in recent times. If the AG of a state can make such a denigrating comment about women, it sends a wrong signal to the public at large threatening the very safety and security of women. This is most unfortunate since one looks to the higher judiciary to uphold values stated in the Constitution.  Thus his comment is far from being humorous as claimed by him and reinforces deep-seated gender bias. We condemn this as an affront to the dignity of a woman.

We demand public apology from him immediately.

Rights rap on West Bengal Government #FOE #FOS


- Strongest charge against Ambikesh was an ‘afterthought’MONALISA CHAUDHURI, Telegraph

 

The state human rights commission has refused to accept the Mamata Banerjee government’s justification for the arrest of Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, citing depositions by top police officers to surmise that the strongest charge against him was an “afterthought”.

“The commission is constrained to put it on record that it finds it difficult to accept the reasons given in the letter of the additional chief secretary for non-acceptance of the commission’s recommendations,” it said in a communiqué to the state government on Tuesday.

The rights commission cited two reasons for not accepting the state’s argument that there was no violation of human rights in the arrest of Mahapatra, who had been first charged with outraging the modesty of a woman for circulating an Internet joke on Mamata Banerjee.

“Senior police officers, including the city police commissioner, had deposed before the commission that Mahapatra was arrested after being charged with a cognisable offence under Section 509 of the IPC. The fact that he was not arrested under Section 66A(b) of the Information Technology Act proves that this stringent section was included as an afterthought,” an official of the commission said.

“It appears that his arrest came first and then the charges were slapped to put him behind bars without considering whether the alleged offence merited these charges,” he added.

Justice Ashok Ganguly, the chairman of the rights commission, said circulating an Internet joke was in no way an offence that called for penal charges of the kind slapped on the chemistry professor. “It was an innocuous mail, based on characters from a movie for children (Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella). How could the police slap such stringent charges for circulating a mail like that?” he said.

Legal experts said invoking Section 509 (intending to insult the modesty of a woman by words and gestures) was “inappropriate” in Mahapatra’s case because the presumed victim never filed a complaint against him.

“According to the rule book, only a complaint in writing from the victim — in this case the chief minister — about outrage of modesty would have made him liable to be charged under Section 509. Circulation of an Internet joke with apparently nothing in it that can be construed as outraging someone’s modesty is, in common knowledge, out of the purview of Section 509,” a veteran lawyer said.

Sections 509 and 500 (defamation) were ultimately omitted from the police chargesheet against Mahapatra. The only charge retained against the professor was under Section 66A(b) of the Information Technology Act (electronic circulation of objectionable content).

The rights commission not only declined to accept the premise under which Mahapatra had been arrested, it also picked holes in the state’s contention that the professor and his neighbour Subrata Sengupta were “rescued from an agitated mob”.

Police officers during their deposition admitted that the arrestees had been wrongfully restrained before being rescued and taken to the police station. Then why was no action taken against the people who had wrongfully restrained the duo? Instead, the victims were treated as accused and charges were drawn up against them,” the commission official said.

Mahapatra said he would write to the Prime Minister’s Office again about the state’s attempt to justify the harassment he had to endure. “The government has made a mockery of its assurance of ‘immediate redressive action’ to the PMO. I will let Prime Minister Manmohan Singh know about it.”

Responding to Mahapatra’s previous letter, the PMO had prodded the Bengal government last December to “take necessary action” in the case. The state rejected all the recommendations of the rights commission last week.

The rights body had recommended departmental action against two police officers — Milan Kanti Das and Sanjay Biswas — for allegedly harassing Mahapatra and slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 each.

Mahapatra has pinned his hopes on Calcutta High Court, where a PIL filed by lawyer and former mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya is scheduled for hearing in June.

The chemistry professor will not be moving court individually because he doesn’t want to be away from the classroom for long. “Over the past year, I could not attend many classes because of court hearings. I don’t want to miss classes anymore. Otherwise, my students will suffer,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SUBHANKAR CHOWDHUR

 

 

Give Maoists political prisoner status as stated by Calcutta High Court


March 22, Kolkata– “The state government must immediately withdraw the petition challenging the Calcutta High Court’s decision. Political prisoner status is a democratic right and the government cannot take away this right,” said Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) secretary Dhiral Sengupta.

The Calcutta High Court August 2012 had granted political prisoner status to seven Maoists including Gaur Narayan Chakraborty and tribal leader Chhatradhar Mahato, spokesperson of Maoist backed Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities.

The state government subsequently filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court challenging the order. The apex court stayed the order.

The APDR also urged the Mamata Banerjee government in the state not to amend the law granting political prisoner status.

“The government should desist from lowering the dignity of the state assembly by trying to amend a law and deny a basic democratic right of people who fight for political justice. This government is behaving like the British rulers,” added Sengupta.

Following the Calcutta High Court order, the union home ministry had written to the state government seeking an amendment in the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992, to prevent Maoists and other militants from getting status of political prisoners.

IANS

#West Bengal : HC orders CBI probe death of 3 women in gurap shelter home #Vaw #Rape #Murder


Blood lust mars India’s Tiananmen moment #Vaw #delhigangrape

Kanchan Chakrabarty : Kolkata, Tue Feb 19 2013,

Dissatisfied with the CID investigation into the deaths of two women of a welfare home in Gurap in Hooghly district, the Calcutta High Court today handed over the probe to the CBI.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi directed the CID to hand over documents related to the case immediately to the central investigating agency.

The order comes as a blow to the Trinamool Congress government — this is the first time during its tenure that the high court has ordered a CBI probe on a state matter.

In July last year, the body of 30-year-old Guria was found buried in the backyard of Rehabilitation Centre for Mentally Ill Persons (Women) run by NGO Dulal Smriti Samsad. Police initially took up the investigation, which was then handed over to the CID. The CID found that two other women had also died in the home earlier. The bodies were found beside the Damodar river in Jamalpur in Burdwan district.

The CID filed a chargesheet against 11 persons in connection with the killing of Guria, but remained silent on the death of the other two women — Ranjana Devi and Sunita Paswan. A PIL was filed by advocate Basabi Roychoudhury in the Calcutta High Court last year demanding a CBI probe and compensation for the family members of the victims.

During the previous hearing about a week ago, the division bench questioned the state’s counsel on the findings of the CID in connection with the death of Ranjana and Sunita and asked the agency to file a report and case diary in court.

Today public prosecutor Manjit Singh placed the CID report, which did not give any details about the probe into the two deaths. After going through the report, the bench questioned Singh about several aspects of the investigation but Singh failed to reply. Singh said the investigating officer was busy dealing with some important case and he was not in Kolkata now.

At this, the division bench pulled up the CID for not giving due importance to the probe and transferred the probe to the CBI.

Advocate Subrata Mukhopadhyay, counsel of the petitioner, said the women had been tortured and raped in the home. Those who had raised their voice had been killed. The few women of the home who had given statements to the CID said that they had been raped there. But the CID did not investigate this properly, Mukhopadhyay said.

On the plea for compensation, the division bench said it would hear the matter after four weeks. Meanwhile it asked the state to explain its stand on compensation.

 

#DeathPenalty Doesn’t Serve as Deterrent: Amartya Sen


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Kolkata, Feb 7, 2013, Outlook
Amid the nationwide debate over giving rapists the death penalty, Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen is not in favour of capital punishment, saying it does not serve as a “deterrent” and “preventive function”.Sen at the same time said today he was not against “severe punishment” in critical cases.

In an oblique reference to the Delhi gangrape case, he said, “I am not for letting them (culprits) go.”

“Death sentences do not serve as a deterrent and its efficacy as a capital punishment is doubted based on empirical grounds and is not a preventive function,” Sen said addressing a seminar on ‘Realisation of Justice’ organised by the Calcutta High Court here.

Sen said, in India, awarding of death sentences was much lower than China where it was the highest in the world.

“In India, death sentences are awarded, but not executed except for recently in the case of Mumbai attacks,” he said.

“I am not against severe punishment in case of critical cases,” he added.

In the course of his lecture, he also referred to the Sanskrit play Mrichhakatika (The Little Clay Cart) where Charu Datta set the criminals free instead of punishing them.

“The play showed that tit-for-tat justice does not bring well to the world in the realms of prosperity, happiness and security for all,” Sen said.

 

Calcutta High court grants ‘political prisoner’ status, to seven members of PUDR


 

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

                                                7TH November 2012

 

Calcutta High Court Judgement and Political Prisoners

The West Bengal High Court judgement of August 2012 granting ‘political prisoner’ status to seven members of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) clarifies and reinforces the provision of law as stipulated in West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 and the definition  of political prisoner therein.

PUDR welcomes the judgement to the extent that it brushes aside the mystique woven by lower courts in denying the status of political prisoner to PCPA members on insubstantial grounds despite the law being vivid and clear on it. Section 24 of the West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 takes a broad and encompassing view of what constitutes a political offence. It includes all political and democratic movement that crusades to further social and economic justice without any personal greed or motives and despite the ideological persuasion and means or orientation towards established legal order to be political movement. Consequently, any one detained for being associated with these movements is to be political prisoner. The High Court judgement therefore brings forth the irony and contradictions of the justice delivery mechanisms in India.

The West Bengal High Court Judgement however has its own perils. The high court in its judgement refrained from striking down the category of political prisoner because the said category was not challenged on valid grounds in the legal matter before its disposal. The court found the category of political prisoner to be discriminatory and reinforcing inequality. It held that basic minimum facilities that are stipulated for the political prisoners under West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 shall be moderated and made accessible to all prisoners. In this concern PUDR would also like to draw attention on the colonial practice of discriminations in Indian jails, entirely based on class and various categorisations of prisoners.   While the notion of equality is no doubt welcoming, HC judgment is conspicuously silent on upholding of prevalent structured inequality in Indian Jails. Secondly it would be quite disingenuous to reduce the struggle for the status of political prisoner to the notion of equal access to facilities inside prison.  Contestations over status of a political prisoner or category of ‘political offence and offenders’ goes beyond prison entitlements. It is about defining the domain of ‘legitimate’ politics and diverse politics of dissent and resistance being constitutive of such domain.

The High Court Judgement in totality circumvents what it asserts in the first instance. It  subverts the broader understanding political offence as defined in the West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992  by proposing trampling of boundaries between ‘political’ and ‘routine’/ non political offence.  Following this judgement the Ministry of Home Affair, Government of India swiftly moved to direct the West Bengal Government to either  consider an amendment of the West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 or to appeal against the high court judgment in order to prohibit the conferment of the status of political prisoners to those who question and revolt against the state. Paradoxical it may seem but overall picture around West Bengal High Court Judgement and the MHA directive represents a continuum of subverting a law- (West Bengal Correctional Service Act) 1992- with democratic potential. More so it aims at redefining the contours of the political by ironing out the politics of resistance and dissent.

 

PUDR demands:

1.      That the provision of West Bengal Correctional Service Act 1992 be adhered to and implemented in right spirit rather than cultivating pretext for its subversion.

2.      That overall living conditions inside prison be made just and humane and rights of prisoners be upheld rather than simply juxtaposing and inducing unsubstantiated contradiction with privileges of political prisoners.

3.      Release all political prisoners and initiate dialogue with them to comprehend and redress the fundamental causes of political unrest.

 

 

Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan

(Secretaries)