The West Bengal government Monday appointed former state police chief Naparajit Mukherjee as acting chairperson of the state human rights panel to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Justice (Retd) A.K. Ganguly.
Ganguly resigned Jan 7, bowing to mounting pressure following a law intern’s allegation that he had sexually harassed her.
The order appointing Mukherjee as acting chairperson of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission was issued from the state secretariat Nabanna in Howrah district during the day, disregarding objections from rights bodies which had opposed nomination of a former police officer to the post.
Mukherjee joined as WBHRC member Nov 15 last, replacing ex state chief secretary Sourin Roy.
Considered very close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during his stint as police chief, he had retired from the service Sep 30.
Soon after his selection as WBHRC member by a three-member panel comprising Banerjee, assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee and Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra – who expressed his dissent, civil rights body Association for Protection of Democratic Rights filed a case in the Calcutta High Court opposing the decision.
“Majority of the cases before the commission deals with excesses or rights violations by the police. So, how can a police officer sit in judgement over it? Moreover, there was no cooling off period in Mukherjee’s case,” said APDR secretariat member Ranjit Sur.
Mishra, who had given his dissenting note at the selection panel meeting, argued that Mukherjee’s presence was “not desirable” in the WBHRC which was probing several complaints where the state police was the accused.
With Ganguly’s resignation, the HRC has now been reduced from a three-member to a single-member body, with another judicial member Narayan Chandra Sil completing his term Nov 1.