WB govt urged to amend law giving prisoner status to Maoists



New Delhi: The Centre has asked West Bengal government to immediately amend a law that grants political prisoners status to Maoists in the state.

Following a Kolkata High Court order allowing the status of political prisoners to People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) leader Chatradhar Mahato and six alleged Maoists booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Home Ministry had in a letter written on October 8 this year asked state government to amend the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992.

The Home Ministry told the state government to move the Supreme Court and amend the Act as the August 8 High Court order has "pan-India implications" and would provide grist to CPI(Maoist) propaganda machinery.

In the absence of any move by the state government to challenge the High Court order, the Centre is upset that the status quo is also being taken advantage by Aftab Ansari, convicted in American Center terror attack case, to also claim the political prisoner status under the same law passed by the state in 1992 but enforced eight years later.

Following the footsteps of Mahato and V Venkateshwara Reddy, alias Telugu Dipak, who were granted the status of political prisoners, the 2007 American Center shootout mastermind Aftab Ansari, who is on death row at Kolkata's Alipore Central Jail, has also demanded political prisoner status for himself.

"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 Home Ministry official said.

According to the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992, which came into force in April 2000, 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.

The 'political prisoner' status entitles prisoners to special treatment, including separate cell, chair, table, access to books and periodicals, home-cooked food etc.

PTI