In a major embarrassment for West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee regime, the state rights panel Monday recommended Rs.10 lakh compensation for the custodial death of SFI leader Sudipto Gupta here in April.
A full bench of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, which met during the day, pointed at the responsibility of police in the April 2 incident, saying such “unfortunate” happenings could have been avoided had the lawkeepers been “more alert”, “careful” and acted in a “professional manner”.
Gupta, a leader of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) students’ arm Students Federation of India (SFI), died under mysterious circumstances after his arrest for taking part in a agitation in central Kolkata.
Left activists have claimed Gupta was “mercilessly beaten” while he and other students who had staged the protests seeking holding of college elections, were being taken in a bus to the Presidency Correctional Home (jail).
However, Chief Minister Banerjee and police have maintained that the 24-year old died after his head hit a lamp post when he was perched on the footboard of the bus.
Despite accepting the administration’s version based on medical evidence and the probe report, the commission pointed out lacunae in the arrangements made by police to take the arrestees to the correctional home.
The panel said police were squarely responsible for the safety and security of the arrestees since they were in their custody.
“The life of a bright young man was cut short in the prime of his life for no fault of his own. The Commission does not think that it is an incident to be trifled with,” said the commission headed by Justice (retd) Ashok Kumar Ganguly.
It has asked the government to carry out its recommendations within two months.
“Sudipta Gupta was sent (to a correctional home) in a bus driven by a driver who did not have a licence for driving a bus,” the panel said, while pointing out police had not arranged for adequate number of buses, and 70 agitators were put in one bus.
The commission also recommended the state government pay Rs.3 lakh for the medical treatment of another student leader Joseph Hossain, who was injured in a police baton charge during the agitation on the same day.
It took note of Hossain’s remarks that police did not cooperate with him after the injury, and that the government did not compensate him for the treatment.
The full bench pointed out that home guard Biswajit Mondal, who the police claimed was assaulted by SFI activists, was admitted to a superspeciality private clinic despite receiving minor injuries.
“Was it a ploy to create an impression all around that home guard Biswajit Mondal was severely assaulted by the SFI activists in a bid to down play the incident of death of Sudipta Gupta in police custody? We do not know the answer,” the statutory body observed.