Forced to resign as West Bengal Human Rights Commission head, justice (retired) Ashok Ganguly said Tuesday Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hadn’t wanted him to continue and accused the government of a “one-sided initiative to remove me” following allegations of sexual harassment by a law intern.
“Mamata Banerjee never liked my continuance here,” Ganguly told journalists, his first such outburst since the allegations surfaced. “She made her displeasure very clear when I gave my order in the Ambikesh Mahapatra case. The next day she hit out at me. But I did not stop. I went on issuing orders and sending recommendations on the cases of farmer Shiladitya, student Sudipta Gupta, Kamduni gangrape case…”
He was WBHRC chairman from April 2012 until Monday. “She used to call me Dada. I agreed to take the assignment of WBHRC chairman on her personal request,” he said. “But that did not mean I would not act as the chairman… So, the government never liked me. This is a totalitarian regime where no dissent is allowed.”
He said, “The state government and the central government made it a joint, one-sided initiative to remove me,” and added that “the Supreme Court did not give me a fair deal” either.
“All political parties came together and started a campaign to malign me,” he said. “I had passed several judgments as judge. That is the job of a judge…. But in the process I could not make everyone happy. The government went to the extent of sending the issue for a presidential reference for an inquiry by the Supreme Court, which has dealt with the case in a very unfair manner.”
To a question, he said he will not target the law intern who made the allegations. “I will not file a defamation suit against a student of mine,” he said. “I would rather go to jail. I started my career as a teacher and I cannot drag a student to court.”
He gave his version of her allegations: “I cannot force anybody to drink. I cannot force even my wife to drink wine. In fact, if anybody is not willing to drink, how can it be forced on her? Moreover, what is unwelcome? Had something been unwelcome, why did she stay there and work for a couple of hours? I tried to get a room allotted for her in the hotel as I knew that she would be late.”
Just because of the allegation, he said, it was being said that women’s interests would not be looked after by the human rights commission. “Nothing can be farther from the truth. Ask the women’s bodies functioning in West Bengal,” he said.
The fact that he has resigned, he added, should not be taking to mean that he has accepted defeat. “I will fight in all my capacity,” he said.
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