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Indian authorities drop defamation charges laid for circulating cartoon

Defamation charges have been dropped against Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and his neighbor Mr. Subrata Sengupta of West Bengal
Defamation charges have been dropped against Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and his neighbor Mr. Subrata Sengupta of West Bengal

CRNI

(CRNI/IFEX) - October 25, 2012 - On October 11, 2012, Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and his neighbor Mr. Subrata Sengupta of West Bengal, India, learned that the West Bengal Police had dropped three of the four charges laid against them for emailing a very tame political collage cartoon to the members of their housing society. Mahapatra and Sengupta are no longer facing charges of insulting the modesty of a woman (under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)), defamation (under Section 500 of the IPC), or, committing such offences when an abettor is present (under Section 114 of the IPC). The only charge that the police have retained on the chargesheet, for emailing the cartoon, is that of causing offense using a computer (under Section 66 (b) of the Information Technology Act).

In a telephone interview conducted earlier today, Ambikesh thanked IFEX, CRNI and the other human rights organizations and cartoon organizations that co-signed the CRNI initiated IFEX Joint Action Protest Letter of September 26th. Speaking with Executive Director Robert Russell, Mahapatra said, "The charges seem to have been vacated as a result of your letter and your actions." We thank Professor Mahapatra while congratulating his legal team and all Indians who rallied for him, for Mr. Sengupta, and, the free speech rights of all Indians.

Again, Mahapatra and Sengupta are still battling to get the remaining charge dismissed. Their next court appearance is scheduled for February 28, 2013. The West Bengal Police in the meantime have ignored the August 13, 2012 judgment of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission ruling in favor of the two men. The police have neither compensated these innocent gentlemen nor reprimanded the police who improperly detained them. Instead the police have tried to contact as many members of the New Garia Housing Development Society as possible to find someone, anyone, who was offended by the very tame cartoon forwarded by Professor Mahapatra. To quote The Indian Express, "the calls to the residents were apparently a desperate attempt to make a case out of the cartoon case." The calls by the police were also apparently a counterproductive attempt to build a case. All the individuals contacted by the police who spoke to The Indian Express said they were not offended by the very tame collage cartoon.

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