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Unending fight of ‘Amra Akranto’: Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra continues a long battle for sharing Mamata Banerjee’s cartoon in 2012

As the section 66A of the IT Act has been scrapped by the SC, the West Bengal govt now want to prosecute Ambikesh Mahapatra under sections 500 and 509 of the IPC

Ambikesh Mahapatra, the professor of Chemistry at Jadavpur University who was arrested and charge-sheeted in 2012 by the West Bengal police for forwarding a cartoon of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seems to have an unending legal battle. His legal fight continues despite the fact that a local court on September 14 discharged him from the charge of section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

The reason behind the prolonged battle is that even if he has been discharged under the section of the IT Act by the court of Subrata Mukherjee, Chief Judicial Magistrate, Alipore, 24 Parganas (South), the case continues since the West Bengal government wants to add sections 500 and 509 of the IPC.

Now the court will take up the next hearing on November 17 to hear as to whether any case under sections 500 and 509 of the IPC or any other law can be made out against the accused or whether the accused deserved to be discharged from the case.

“It is more than nine and half years I have been fighting my case facing the torture of the establishment,” Ambikesh Mahapatra told the OpIndia over the phone.

In 2012, he had e-mailed a cartoon of the chief minister to a member of New Garia Development Co-Operative Society Limited. On this, a worker of the Trinamool Congress Amit Sardar had lodged an FIR at Purba Jadavpur Police Station on April 12, 2012. That complainant was not the recipient of his mail.

Ambikesh Mahapatra was arrested and kept in the police lockup. The next day he got bail from the court. He had forwarded a cartoon sequence based on Sonar Kella movie of Satyajit Ray, that had made fun of Dinesh Trivedi dropped as the Railway Minister and being replaced by Mukul Roy.

The professor was booked along with Subrata Sengupta and others by the police under sections 500, 509 and 114 of IPC, section 66A of IT Act. But during the investigation, except Ambikesh Mahapatra and Subrata Sengupta, the police had discharged the rest of the accused. In the charge sheet, the police retained sections 66A(b) and (c) of the IT Act read with section 109 of IPC against them only.

In March 2015, the Supreme Court passed a landmark decision in Shreya Singhal Vs. Union of India striking down Section 66A of the IT Act.  Sensing that the Supreme Court judgment may turn the case against the professor null and void, the Bengal government later insisted that Ambikesh Mahapatra must face trial under section 509 (word, gesture or act meant to insult women) and Section 500 (punishment for defamation) of IPC.

“I don’t know why the West Bengal government is behind me. The police had dropped section 500 and 509 during the investigation. It means the police found no evidence against me. Now the same police and the same government want me to face trial under both sections of IPC. The court had in the past rejected the protest petition after both the sections were dropped. I am just fighting for my rights,” Ambikesh Mahapatra told OpIndia.

Ambikesh Mahapatra said that he had not imagined that he would have to pay the price for forwarding a simple cartoon. “There is no democracy and no freedom of speech in West Bengal. I am above 61-years. What they call a crime was not a crime,” he said. He is lonely fighting because the co-accused Subrata Sengupta died years back.

Ambikesh Mahapatra recalled that he was made to suffer in other ways also like denial of extension of passport and non-payment of compensation. The West Bengal Human Rights Commission in August 2012 had directed disciplinary actions against police officers for the manner they acted against him. The Calcutta High Court had too increased the compensation from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 to account for the legal cost. But the compensation amount has still not been paid.

Ambikesh Mahapatra has formed a group called “Amra Akranto” or “We the sufferers”. The group has been joined by more than 100 people who are the victims of injustice and highhandedness of the State.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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