A day after the Union home ministry took a dim view of the West Bengal government’s inaction on a state law allowing Maoists the status of political prisoners, state government officials, on Tuesday, were busy pointing fingers at each other over who had the authority to amend the West Bengal Correctional Services Act.
The Act has allowed several Maoists to get ‘political prisoner’ status, and convicted mastermind in the American Center shoot-out case Aftab Ansari to apply for it.
Following a report in HT on November 25 that Ansari had followed in the footsteps of Maoist leaders and applied for political prisoner status, the MHA said that, earlier, it had written to the state government requesting it to bring in an amendment to the Act, since the granting of such status would have ‘pan-India implications’.
Sources said the government had not only sat on the MHA request, but also a request from its own investigating wing, the CID, sent a couple of months ago.
Meanwhile, 17 Maoists accused in the Silda massacre case were granted ‘political prisoner’ status by a Midnapore district court on November 26.
As many as 24 jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles were killed after Maoists attacked their Silda camp in West Midnapore on February 15, 2010.
While Chandrima Bhattacharya, minister of state (MoS) for law, pleaded helplessness, saying her department had been waiting a long time to get the jail department’s nod, state jails minister Shankar Chakraborty said his department was pondering over it.
“We’re still waiting. We can’t do anything if the jail department doesn’t give us their nod. It’s for the jail department to decide on the issue and only after they give us their nod can we begin the process of amendment. The MHA letter must have been sent to the jail department, not us,” Bhattacharya told HT.
The jail department, on their part, said they were not aware of any letter from the MHA, but were deliberating on the amendprosecutor of Bengal said.
On November 23, Ansari, a death-row convict at Alipur Central Jail, had applied for ‘political prisoner’ status to the state jail department, citing the Calcutta High Court ruling on the Act, which had granted similar status to such Maoists as V Venkateshwara Reddy, alias Telugu Dipak, and Chhatradhar Mahato.
Calcutta High Court’s verdict granting political prisoner status to seven Maoists, including Mahato, Telugu Dipak and Gaur Chakraborty, came on August 8.