Compensation granted to the person who was wrongfully confined for circulating the cartoon lampooning the Chief Minister of West Bengal

Calcutta High Court: As a significant development after the Supreme Court declared the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act to be unconstitutional, in a  case regarding the circulation of the cartoon lampooning the Chief Minister of West Bengal in 2012, a bench of Dipankar Dutta J. provided a major relief to the petitioners (chemistry professor of Jadavpur University and his neighbour) by directing the State Government to provide Rs 50000/- as compensatory relief to the petitioners for violation of their human rights by the public servants. The Court directed the release of the petitioners from the wrongful confinement within one month from the date of this judgment and order, and also to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the respondents (police personnel) who had wrongfully arrested the two victims.

In the instant case, the petitioners were beaten mercilessly by the supporters or activists of the ruling dispensation for forwarding the cartoon lampooning the Chief Minister of West Bengal via email and circulating its printouts, after which the respondents came to the spot and arrested the petitioners in the dead of night of 12-04-2012 without any written complaint against them claiming “protective custody” of the petitioners against the agitated mob. WBHRC took suo moto cognizance of the matter on observing the fact that the State Government is supporting the illegal actions of the police. B.R. Bhattacharya, counsel for the petitioner contended that there has been brazen violation of the human rights of the petitioners and WBHRC is justified in its recommendation.

Considering the question regarding the jurisdiction of WBHRC to take suo moto action in the present case, the Court made it clear that as per Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, where the recommendation of the HRC regarding violation of human rights is not accepted by the concerned Government, the commission is free to file a writ petition seeking relief for compensation to the victims of human rights violation. The Court found that the petitioners were entitled to compensation as their detention was not in conformity with Section 41 of the CrPC and their precious human rights were trampled over. The Court noted that raising the bogey of “protective custody” by the respondents was mere intention to wriggle out the obvious wide and far reaching ramifications of the illegal arrests of the petitioners. The Court concluded that the award of compensation to the petitioner’s for violation of their human right is just and proper as WBHRC has not committed any error, jurisdictional or in respect of determination of issue of human right violation, and has rightly drew the perception that the State Government has attempted to save the public servants. Ambikesh Mahapatra v. State of West Bengal, 2014 SCC OnLine Cal 4783decided on 10-03-2015


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