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Cartoon row: Rights panel tells Mamata to pay fine

August 13, 2012 18:00 IST

Finding fault with the way a professor and his neighbour were arrested for posting online a cartoon allegedly derogatory to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Human Rights Commission on Monday asked the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to the two persons.

The rights body also recommended departmental proceedings against two police officers.

WBHRC Chairman Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly and two other members recommended that 'the state government must compensate both Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and Subrata Sengupta, the two arrestees, for the manner in which they were arrested from their residential complex and detained in the police station in a case which is about a non-cognizable offence'.

Mohapatra, a Jadavpur University chemistry professor, and his neighbour Sengupta were accused last April of forwarding the cartoon parodying Satyajit Ray's ever green children's film Sonar Kella through an e-mail which the police claimed amounted to character assassination of the chief minister.

"Their compensation is assessed at Rs 50,000 to be paid to each of them by the state government within a period of six weeks from date," the order signed by Justice Ganguly and members Justice (retd) N C Sil and S N Roy said.

It also recommended that the state government initiate departmental proceedings against Milan Kumar Das, Additional officer in-charge of Purba Jadavpur Police Station and against Sanjoy Biswas, sub-inspector of police within six weeks.

The commission, however, made it very clear that nothing said in this order would affect police investigation into the connected cases.

The commission had taken suo motu cognisance of the manner in which professor Mahapatra and Sengupta, aged over 70 years, were arrested on the night of April 12 from their housing society.

The commission noted that in an FIR by one Amit Sardar, who is neither a resident of the society, nor a recipient of the e-mail, it was alleged that the two had sent e-mails to society members against the chief minister and the railway minister and used offensive language.

The commission observed that at the time police arrested the two persons, no FIR was lodged against them and the subject cartoon, allegedly circulated and which was filed with the FIR, was not even seen by the police.

At the time of their arrest only allegations against those persons were there that they had circulated by e-mail a cartoon which was derogatory to the Chief Minister and they carried a door-to-door derogatory campaign within the said society, it said.

The commission noted that "the film (Sonar Kella) was very popular and enjoyed by children and adults alike."

"No one can attribute even remotely any suggestion which is lewd or indecent and slang in connection with the said film or even in respect of the subject cartoon," the commission observed in its order.

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