Ganguly steps down as Bengal rights panel chief

Kolkata, Jan 6: Justice (retd) A.K. Ganguly, facing allegations of sexually assaulting a law intern, Monday stepped down from the post of chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.

The former Supreme Court judge drove to the Raj Bhavan here and handed over his resignation letter to Governor M. K. Narayanan during a 45-minute meeting, sources in the know said on condition of anonymity.

The resignation came hours after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking to restrain the government from proceeding against Ganguly. Ganguly, however, claimed he had “nothing to do” with the Public Interest Litigation.

The union cabinet had already cleared the home ministry’s proposal for a presidential reference to the Supreme Court for a probe into the allegations.

The proposal was being sent to President Pranab Mukherjee, for him to forward to the chief justice of India seeking a probe into the issue.

However, Ganguly’s resignation from the human rights panel has rendered the rendered the reference infructuous, legal sources said.

The intern has alleged that Ganguly sexually harassed her at a five star hotel in Delhi in December 2012.

Ganguly has repeatedly denied the accusation and on Dec 23 wrote to the Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam, claiming there was a “concerted effort” to “tarnish his image” for giving judgements against “powerful quarters”.

A three-member panel of apex court judges probing the allegations had earlier indicted Ganguly of “unwelcome behaviour”.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote twice to President Mukherjee for taking urgent necessary action, so as to remove Ganguly from the post of WBHRC chief at the earliest.

Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, a section of the legal fraternity, several women’s organisations and civil rights groups had also spearheaded a nationwide clamour for his resignation.

However, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee had stood by Ganguly.

Known as an upright judge during his 18-year tenure with various high courts and then the Supreme Court, Ganguly had given a number of landmark verdicts that nailed the high and the mighty.

Just before he retired, Ganguly ordered cancellation of 122 2G licences granted by then telecom minister A Raja in 2008 due to financial irregularities.

He also made a very significant observation that the Supreme Court had violated the basic fundamental rights of the Indian citizens during the Emergency (1975-1977).

In 2011, the bench of Justice Ganguly and Justice G.S. Singhvi had ordered return of 156 hectares of land to farmers, and fined the Greater Noida Insutrial Development Authority Rs.1 million for doling out the land acquired for development to builders for constructing commercial and residential complexes.

IANS