The Centre on Thursday decided to send a Presidential reference on allegations of sexual misconduct against Justice A K Ganguly to the Supreme Court, setting the ball rolling for his removal from the post of West Bengal Human Rights Commission chairperson.
Ganguly is facing allegations of sexual misconduct, visiting Pakistan without informing the state government and taking up an assignment of arbitration from the All India Football Federation despite holding a high post in the human rights body. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had repeatedly petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee against Ganguly and sought his removal.
“The proposal of the Home Ministry on Justice Ganguly has been approved,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram said.
The decision to approach the apex court, which is a legal requirement to remove any national or state human rights commission member, was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday evening.
The cabinet discussed a note prepared by the Home Ministry as well as legal opinion provided by Attorney General G E Vahanvati that a case could be made against the retired Supreme Court judge.
This was perhaps the first time that a member of a human rights commission in the country faced this ignominy, a senior NHRC official said.
Ganguly denied the allegations and refused to resign. After the Cabinet decision, Ganguly said in Kolkata that he needed some time to decide his course of action. Earlier in the day, Ganguly said he had not yet decided whether to resign.
Meanwhile, in Kolkata, Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra tweeted: “There has been a significant positive development towards reclaiming the sanctity of the office of the WBHRC.” “Ganguly’s case has been deemed fit for Presidential reference and due process will ensure that the office of WBHRC will be redeemed,” she noted. None of the senior Trinamool leaders, however, were available for comments.
The party’s website said, “We hope now that speculation about the process being partisan, extra judicial and not following the law of land has been laid to rest.”
Former Lok Sabha speaker and prominent barrister Somnath Chatterjee told a local TV channel: “Should he (Ganguly) be found guilty punish him adequately, not if he isn’t. I have never seen impropriety on his part. Ganguly was treated shabbily without determining his guilt.”
Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising described the development as “very significant”.