October 29, 2013

SFI leader's death: Govt sits on rights body suggestion

TNN | Oct 29, 2013, 04.47 AM IST

KOLKATA: The Mamata Banerjee government is sitting on the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) recommendations yet again.

The WBHRC directed the government to pay Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the bereaved family ofSFI leader Sudipto Gupta, who was killed in police custody while being taken to Alipore Jail. The government didn't take any action on the August 26 order on the plea that the matter is lying with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The SFI leader died on April 2 while being taken to the Presidency jail along with other protesters. The very next day, WBHRC took up the case suo-motu on media reports. During inquiry, the commission found that police had used a bus to take the protesters to jail and it was being driven by a driver who did not posses a driving licence. Subsequently, the commission directed the state to pay the compensation.

However section 35 (I) of Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 states: "The Commission shall not inquire into any matter which is pending before a State Commission or any other Commission duly constituted under any law for the time being in force." WBHRC members wondered how could the NHRC take up the matter when it was being probed by the state body.

According to sources from the state secretariat, the government had written to the NHRC about a month ago, asking for clarification from the commission as to whose order - NHRC or WBHRC - the government should follow as the matter was being taken up by two agencies. The NHRC took cognizance of the matter in May on the basis of two separate complaints filed by two NGOs, while WBHRC took cognizance of it suo-motu on April 3, a day after the incident. In fact, WBHRC communicated the same to NHRC on April 3 itself.

WBHRC received a communication from the government on September 12 saying that since the matter was being taken up by the NHRC, the state was in no position to implement the state human right's commission recommendations at this stage. Subsequently, this communication was placed before the full bench of the commission by registrar Rabindranath Samanta. WBHRC then wrote to NHRC saying that since it took cognizance of the incident prior to NHRC, it had no locus standi to investigate the matter fresh.

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