Verdict wrongly held that even terror activities would amount to political movement: West Bengal

The Supreme Court has stayed a Calcutta High Court judgment directing West Bengal to treat arrested members of the banned Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) as “political prisoners” by declaring the outfit a “political movement.”

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai was acting on the State government’s appeal challenging the rationale of the August 8, 2012 High Court verdict. The High Court had declared CPI(ML) spokesman Gour Nararayan Chakraborty, who was facing charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a “political prisoner” under the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992. Six other Maoists facing similar charges — V. Venketeswara Reddy, Sambhu Soren, Sagan Murmu, Chatradhar Mahato, Sukanti Baskey and Prasun Chatterjee — had also secured similar privileges from the High Court.

The State asked whether an active member of a declared terrorist organisation could claim to be a political prisoner. “The judgment has wrongly held that even terrorist activities would amount to a political movement and therefore participants in such terrorist acts would be political prisoners.”

The accused first sought “political prisoner” status on July 4, 2011 but the trial court rejected the plea. The High Court then said these were basic amenities to which all prisoners were entitled, and asked the State government to amend rules to grant all prisoners the same facilities.

Counsel Avijit Bhattacharjee appeared for the State.