Mahapatra forwarded to several resident-members of his housing society in Kolkata pictures of Mamata and her party colleagues Mukul Roy and Dinesh Trivedi with speech balloons adapting a famous scene from Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella to a satirical take on Trivedi’s removal after this year’s railway budget.
The police have accused Mahapatra of criminal intimidation and causing annoyance, insult, injury and hatred by sending the email. The chargesheet, which reached Mahapatra’s lawyer two days ago, accuses him under section 66A(b)(c) of the Information Technology Act (sending offensive messages through a communication device), read with section 109 IPC (abetment), and says both Mahapatra and the housing society secretary Subrata Sengupta (accused no. 2) should face trial.
The chargesheet, a copy of which has been accessed by The Indian Express, includes statements by 29 people in support of the prosecution’s case. Thirteen of these statements are from members of the society who received the email, the other 16 are from outsiders.
Several member-recipients told The Indian Express that their statements attached with the chargesheet were “not true”, “distorted”, and different from what they had told investigators who had contacted them by phone.
Dr Kunal Roy, scientist at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology:
The statement attached by the police quotes him as saying: “On 23.3.12, I received an email message which was sent from the official email ID of our society... The contents of the concerned email is very much offending. I became annoyed for sending of such email...”
Dr Roy told The Indian Express: “To the query on the telephone from the police station, the crux of my response was that I thought that the email message sent by Prof Ambikesh Mahapatra was done in a light-hearted manner without meaning any harm, and I did not think that there had been any reason to create so much fuss about it... The statement attributed to me was never read out or explained to me.”
Arjun Kumar Roy, retired engineer:
The chargesheet quotes him: “I received an email from the official email ID from New Garia Housing Cooperative Society. Very surprisingly, the contents of the email was something else than the usual office correspondence. The attachment of the email was much disturbing to me and it appears to me that it was defamatory and obscene email to a female chief minister of our state.”
When contacted, Roy said, “The statement as attached with the chargesheet is wrong. It is a lie. I told the police when I was called that the email is not bad and obscene. Mahapatra has been politically trapped, I added.”
Dr Satya Ranjan Bisal, joint commissioner of sales tax:
The chargesheet quotes Bisal: “The email was containing an attachment with photograph of Smt Mamata Banerjee, Sri Mukul Roy and Dinesh Trivedi and some comments. The contents appear to me as abusive and defamatory and I got very much irritated due to that.”
Dr Bisal told The Indian Express: “The statement given by the police in the chargesheet is wrong. I only told the police that it would have been better if a cartoon had been used in the place of the CM’s photograph.”
Ramesh Chandra Haoladar, retired engineer:
The chargesheet quotes Haoladar: “I have an email account and I have received the email from the official email ID of New Garia Housing Cooperative Society. After having received the same I condemn such email from the official ID of the housing society.”
Haoladar said: “I remember every bit of what I told the police when phoned. The word ‘condemn’ is a harsh and strong word. I never uttered that word. I only told the police over the phone that the email is mere fun but the proper thing would have been not to use the official ID to send it.”
Investigating officer M K Das has written that the statements have been “recorded by me, read out, explained and admitted to be correct”. On the alleged discrepancies between the members’ statements and police claims, Sujoy Chanda, deputy commissioner, South Suburban Division, said, “The matter is sub judice and I will not comment.”
Prof Mahapatra said, “I have gone through the chargesheet and I have seen the discrepancies in the statements. I have been advised by my lawyer not to say anything until the next date of hearing, which is February 28, 2013.”
The West Bengal Human Rights Commission headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly had in August described the action of the Purba Jadavpur police station against Mahapatra as one of “police excess and high handedness”, and recommended that the state government pay both Mahapatra and Subrata Sengupta Rs 50,000 each in damages within six weeks. The six-week period got over on September 25, but no compensation has been paid.
The commission also asked the government to initiate departmental proceedings against Additional O-C Milan Kumar Das and S-I Sanjay Biswas of the Purba Jadavpur police station within six weeks. No proceedings have begun yet.
The commission asked the government to inform it of the action taken on its recommendations within two months. That deadline runs out tomorrow, October 13.