Pressure mounts on Ganguly to resign as Bengal rights panel chief (Roundup)

New Delhi/Kolkata, Dec 16: Pressure mounted Monday on Justice (retd) A.K. Ganguly, accused of sexually harassing a law intern, to quit as head of the West Bengal human rights panel with a government law officer making public the victim’s affidavit and the BJP urging President Pranab Mukherjee to remove him.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal also said Ganguly should voluntarily submit his resignation from the post of chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC), but Ganguly, who has so far remained defiant on the demands to quit, said the publication of the affidavit was not proper.

Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising revealed the law intern’s affidavit, describing the sequence of events that led to the charges of sexual harassment against Ganguly.

The affidavit was submitted to the three-judge committee of the Supreme Court, which indicted Ganguly, finding him guilty of “unwelcome behaviour” towards the intern.

Commenting on the matter, Sibal said: “In the light of the latest revelation by the additional solicitor general published in a national daily, I think it’s time for Justice Ganguly to voluntarily submit his resignation.”

He also said the apex court should look into the matter against the judge “in the same way as it takes against a normal man when the security of women is in question”.

Asked if the government would intervene, he said there was a procedure in which a person holding the post of chairman of a rights panel can be removed for misbehaviour and incapacity to continue in the post.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj Monday appealed to the president to dismiss Ganguly from his post.

Speaking at a memorial programme for the 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist who was gang raped a year before in New Delhi, she said that as Ganguly had not resigned from his post even after the Supreme Court panel indicted him, the president should use his powers.

“The president has power and he should use it to dismiss Ganguly from his post,” she said.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said: “Justice Ganguly, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion. Today, he is suspected to have committed an unacceptable offence. Justice Ganguly’s insistence on continuing in office raises a few questions.”

Jaising, who has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking Ganguly’s removal, justified her decision to publicise the affidavit, contending the issue concerned the integrity and functioning of the West Bengal human rights panel.

“I would like to ask Justice Ganguly if this is indeed how he would like his child to be treated?” asked Jaising in an open letter to Ganguly published in the daily.

Jaising also claimed that powerful sections were coming out to support Ganguly.

“Given that he is refusing to resign, I felt compelled to put the girl’s affidavit in the public domain,” Jaising told a television channel.

The affidavit said the young woman was working as a research assistant with the retired judge. He called her Dec 24, 2012, to his hotel room and insisted that she drink wine and spend the night in his room.

“As it was late, he ordered dinner, and over dinner Justice Ganguly made the advances to her, both physical and verbal,” Jaising said.

The affidavit said the woman rushed out of the room and headed home, while Ganguly messaged her on her cell phone, saying he was sorry.

West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress has been at the forefront of protests, seeking Ganguly’s resignation. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has twice written to the president urging action in the case.

Protesters Monday gathered outside the office of the human rights panel in Kolkata to press for Ganguly’s resignation.

However Ganguly remained defiant.

“I don’t want to comment on the issue, but I think it (affidavit) should not have been made public,” Ganguly told IANS Monday.

IANS