Mamata cartoon row: Calcutta HC asks state to pay compensation of Rs 50,000 to professor

Kolkata,Pooja Mehta: In a major blow to the West Bengal government, the Calcutta High Court directed the state government on Tuesday to pay additional compensation of Rs.50,000 within a month to former Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra for his arrest in connection with the circulation of a cartoon of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Acting on the recommendations of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, the single bench of Court of Justice Dipankar Dutta directed the state to pay this additional compensation within a month each to Mahapatra and his neighbour Subrata Sengupta. This apart, the Court has ordered the state to take departmental action against two police officers of Purba Jadavpur police station – officer in charge, Milan Kanti Das and sub-inspector, Sanjay Biswas.

“My three-year long battle finally comes to an end. This judgement has set an example that democracy still prevails in the country. But, I still don’t feel that circulating cartoons is a crime,” said Mahapatra.

On April 12, 2012 professor Mahapatra was assaulted for allegedly forwarding anti-Mamata Banerjee cartoons via email to about 65 people. The professor was arrested by the police late on April 19 and produced in an Alipore court. He was released on bail later, but only after a written statement – which the professor claimed that he was forced to write – that he was an active member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

On August 14, 2012 the rights panel took suo moto cognizance of the matter and had recommended departmental proceedings against two police officers of Purba Jadavpur police station. The panel also advised the government to pay a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to the duo who had to spend a night in lock-up.

In the year 2013, the state government had rejected this recommendation of the Commission for compensation citing that there had been no violation of human rights.