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Friday, 2 March 2012

Raj Dharma: get hit, let go and arrest


Raj Dharma: get hit, let go and arrest

OUR BUREAU
Akash Banerjee (face circled, in picture courtesy STAR Ananda) and (above) Subir Ghosh, the police officer he allegedly assaulted on Wednesday
A nephew of chief minister Mamata Banerjee was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly assaulting a police officer after his SUV was stopped for jumping a red light and obstructing traffic at a busy Kidderpore crossing.
Akash Banerjee, 27, had allegedly screamed “Chinish na amay? Aami mukkho montrir bhaipo (Don’t you know me? I am the chief minister’s nephew)” during the incident near Watgunge police station and later flashed an identity card that mentioned aunt Mamata’s address — 30B Harish Chatterjee Street, Calcutta 26 — as his place of residence. He was immediately set free.
Akash, whose father Ashim Banerjee is the second of Mamata’s elder brothers, drove off in the Tata Aria with friends Nitish Singh, Amit Kumar Mishra and Mohammad Sarmuddin, only to be arrested two hours later on Brace Bridge, Taratala.
The order to arrest Akash and his three friends apparently came from the chief minister, enabling a government that is desperately in need of face-savers an opportunity to make a virtue out of an exigency. Urban development minister Firhad Hakim issued a statement from Writers’ Buildings in the evening, describing Mamata’s green signal to the police as an “exemplary execution of Raj Dharma”.
“The police had let him (Akash) off, but when the chief minister heard of the incident she immediately instructed police to arrest him. This was an instance of good, transparent governance,” he said.
The police parroted Hakim’s line. “Our honourable chief minister Mamata Banerjee came to know of the incident from her own sources (she left for Darjeeling in the afternoon). She contacted Calcutta police and instructed us to immediately arrest Akash Banerjee. Acting on her instructions, her nephew and three others were arrested,” said special commissioner of police Shivaji Ghosh, omitting the part where Akash was detained and freed.
So is the chief minister’s clearance required to arrest her relative even when the allegation against him is as serious as assaulting a police officer on duty? Hakim downplayed the alleged offence.
“Such incidents keep happening every now and then,” he said, as if to say civilians assault officers of Calcutta police every other day.
Special commissioner Ghosh claimed it wasn’t immediately “clear” why Akash and his friends were allowed to walk away from Watgunge police station at first. “We have come across this complaint. The sequence of events is not very clear. I am carrying out an inquiry to find out how he left (the police station) after the incident,” he said.
Akash’s father Ashim, aka Kali, has not had the best of relations with sister Mamata. He was allegedly the reason why Mamata, then an Opposition leader, had left her Kalighat home one night and stayed at Trinamul’s Topsia headquarters.
Police sources said the Tata Aria Akash and his friends were in had overtaken another vehicle on Circular Garden Reach Road around 11.30am and jumped a traffic signal before screeching to a halt in the middle of the road a few metres away, blocking traffic at the crossing.
Inspector Subir Ghosh, the officer-in-charge of Vidyasagar Setu traffic guard, quickly went up to the car with two constables to check the vehicle’s documents, at which Akash allegedly lost his temper. “He hurled expletives, got off the car (belonging to West Port resident Asgar Khan) and hit Subir Ghosh,” a witness said.
An officer of the rank of deputy commissioner was instructed to go to Watgunge police station as soon as news of a nephew of the chief minister being detained reached the police headquarters, a source said.
The officer’s brief was to ensure Akash and his friends were freed before news of the incident went viral, he added.
This is not the first time Akash has allegedly violated the law. Officials of the Indian Botanic Garden at Shibpur, Howrah, said he and his friends had forced their way into the campus twice this month after sunset, flouting a high court order.
The guards on duty had reported it to the joint director of the garden, Himadri Sekhar Debnath, but he did not file a complaint on learning who Akash was. For Wednesday’s alleged assault on a cop, Akash has been charged for non-bailable offences under sections 353 (assault to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty), 341 (wrongfully restraining a person), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 114 (abettor present when offence is committed) of the IPC.
Sections 122 and 127 of the Motor Vehicles Act have also been slapped on Akash. Section 353 carries a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment.
Akash and friends will be produced in an Alipore court on Thursday