Mamata mum on political prisoner status for Maoists

Her government has failed to respond to the Centres request for amending the controversial law

The West Bengal government has failed to respond to the Centre’s request of amending the controversial law that grants political prisoner status to Maoists in the state.

The Union home ministry feared that other ultras could exploit it for their benefit and wrote a letter to the state home secretary on October 8, taking note of a judgment of Calcutta High Court giving political prisoners status to People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) leader Chatradhar Mahato and six alleged Maoists booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The MHA moved in since the judgment had pan-India implications as it feared that the high court judgment might be exploited by the Left ultras to claim brownie points.
For this, the ministry had suggested double strategy, which is to request the state government to amend the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992 which granted political prisoner status. 

This law was passed by the previous Left government as they were sympathetic to naxals, said ministry sources.

As per the act, any offence committed or alleged to have been committed in furtherance of any political or democratic movement or any offence arising out of an act done by an individual with an exclusive political objective free from personal greed or motive shall be considered as a political offence.

Special treatment

The political prisoner status provides special treatment to prisoners, including separate cell, chair, table and home-cooked food. 

The other inmates do not get even these facilities which are violation of human rights.And, to file an appeal against the high court order either before a larger bench in the same court or move to Supreme Court, the ministry sources stated giving details of the official communication.Upset ministry sources said that they have not heard from the Mamata Banerjee government on the steps taken to amend it. 

A convict in decade old American Centre attack, Aftab Ansari has already taken advantage of the provision to seek political prisoner status.

Ansari who was deported from Dubai before being convicted by the court for masterminding the shooting at the American Centre in 2002 is said to have written a letter to Alipore Centre Jail where he is lodged seeking political prison status.

“It is a very worrying development. Despite asking West Bengal government more than a month ago, there is no action. Since it is a state law, the central government cannot act or interfere. The state government has to act fast to amend the Act,” a ministry official said.

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