Mamata's lucky victory? Pressure on Ganguly to quit as WB rights panel chairman | india | Hindustan Times
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Mamata's lucky victory? Pressure on Ganguly to quit as WB rights panel chairman

india Updated: Dec 03, 2013 01:53 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Ashok Kumar Ganguly

Luck never stops smiling on Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, it seems.

For, there's tremendous pressure on state human rights commission chief and former Supreme Court judge Ashok Kumar Ganguly, the lone dissenting voice against Banerjee's Trinamool Congress government, to resign.

He is facing charges that he had sexually harassed an intern in a Delhi hotel room while still serving as an apex court judge.

But Ganguly's former boss Altamas Kabir, former Calcutta high court judges Malay Sengupta and Bhagawati Prasad Banerjee and former attorney general Soli Sorabji have advised him not to quit the commission. It could lead to more unsubstantiated allegations unseating people from high positions.

Although Ganguly attended office on Monday, the state's rights groups, which look up to him as their patron saint since he took over the rights commission in April 2012, are "shocked and shattered".

Ranjit Sur, secretariat member of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), the largest human rights organisation in the state, said, "We are feeling helpless and embarrassed ... this is a charge that one can't take lightly."

But why does the ruling party in Bengal want Ganguly to go? By slapping fines on the government for comments made by the chief minister and police harassment of a university professor for circulating a spoof on Banerjee to publicly reprimanding senior officials - Ganguly has become the lone critic of the administration.

In fact, the rights groups credited him as being the first state commission chairman who made people feel that such an institution really existed. Proactive in his role, Ganguly used to take suo motu cognisance of various issues and initiate proceedings.

The harassment charge could not have come at a more opportune moment for Banerjee. Earlier she said, "I had thought I should appoint a neutral person. Now, it seems I should not have appointed him (Ganguly). He is summoning all the bureaucrats all the time to his office. When will the officers work?"

This time, however, the TMC is studiously avoiding any comment. Commerce and industries minister and TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee refused to talk on the issue. And all that law minister Chandrima Bhattacharya had to say on Friday was: "It is unfortunate ... that such an allegation has come up against a person occupying such a respected post."

Only one TMC MP, the party's chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Kalyan Banerjee - who is also a lawyer - demanded Ganguly's resignation. His seniors said it was a personal comment.

The TMC strategy, said a party leader on anonymity, was "to maintain silence and let the human rights organisations speak". Rights activist Sujato Bhadra felt Ganguly should step down on moral grounds while admitting: "He (Ganguly) was the first person whose occupying this post made people feel the existence of the commission."