REPORT OF CONSULTATION MEETING
REPORT OF CONSULTATION MEETING OF CONCERNED ENVIRONMENTAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS ON THE WITHDRAWAL OF HANS DEMBOWSKI'S BOOK BY ORDER OF CALCUTTA HIGHCOURT
On invitation of Vasundhara, the concerned environmental and human rights organizations and individuals of Kolkata met on 6 December, 2001 at 6 pm at the hall of Tollygunge Development Council, Kolkata, to discuss the issue of withdrawal of Hans Dembowski's book.
Hans Dembowski, a German student and journalist came to Kolkata two years back to do his research on environmental activities and related legal issues, particularly making an appraisal of the functioning of the Green Bench. During his research he met a number of personalities involved in environmental activities in Kolkata. He submitted his PhD in Bielfeld University, Germany in the Department of Sociology in September 1998. His PhD thesis has been published as a book titled " Taking the State to Court - Public Interest Litigation and the Public Sphere in Metropolitan India" by Oxford University Press in January 2000. The book was officially released in a function held in the Kolkata Book Fair.
However, two lawyers of Calcutta High Court, one of them being government pleader, made a petition to the Chief Justice of Calcutta High court stating that the book contains "scurrilous derogatory and scandalous remarks against this Hon'ble Court" and has "scandalized and/or tended to lower the Authority of this court". In an interim order Calcutta High Court has stopped circulation of the book. The writer Hans Dembowski is yet to receive any legal notice and therefore feels helpless.
The Consultation was attended by environmental organizations - Vasundhara, Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity, School of Fundamental Research, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Swasthya O Paribesh, Disha, Purba Kolkata Paribesh Sameekshan, Adi Ganga Paribesh Suraksha Committee and human rights organizations - Human Rights Lawyers Network, Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha and Majzdur Mukti.
Eminent individuals present were Prof. S.C.Santra (Head, Ecological Sciences, Kalyani University), Shri Samar Bagchi (Eminent Scientist), Sadhan Roychowdhury (Advocate, Calcutta High Court) and others.
Mohit Ray of Vasundhara presented the background of the meeting and read out the petition against Hans Dembowski's book. He expressed concern about the withdrawal of the book. Subhas Dutta of Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity described in details the events leading to the withdrawal of the book and the legal position. He thought that an appeal should be made at Supreme Court. As Subhas Dutta has also been accused in the case and therefore it was not possible for him to take up the case. Sutapa Chakraborty of Human Rights Lawyers Network spoke on their activities and expressed their willingness to help in legal intervention. Sadhan Roychowdhury said that the withdrawal of the book hampers the right of the environmental activists to have access to an important document and the groups can file Public Interest Litigation in Calcutta High Court. Biplab Basu of School of Fundamental Research said that the legal position may be more complicated. Anup Dutta of Purba Kolkata Paribesh Sameekshan, Pradip Chatterjee of Disha, Samar Bagchi and others took part in the discussio. Dr. Ashish Ghosh (Centre for Environment & Development) and Amal Dutta (Bar-at-Law, Ex-MP) could not attend the consultation but expressed their solidarity with the environmental groups.
The consultation adopted the appeal given below. It also decided that Vasundhara will organize an initial meeting with Sadhan Roychowdhury to find out the legal steps that may be taken up jointly by the environmental groups. It will also keep all the present ones informed about the case.
This Consultation on "Taking The State to the Court" by Dr. Hans Dembowski, published by Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2001, is concerned that an important book on Calcutta's environmental issues has become inaccessible to the concerned readers. It is an academic research on Calcutta's environment and being published by Oxford University Press it could reach a wide readership nationally and internationally. There is in fact very few such work on Calcutta's environment which is available to the readers. Besides, environment is now considered to be a basic human rights issue for the people where denial of access to this book would hinder their right to information. In this context, we, the Concerned Environmental and Human Rights Activists, Organizations and Citizens, appeal to the all concerned to take necessary steps so that the book can again be accessible to the readers. This will help the movement to improve Calcutta's environment. 6 December, 2001, Kolkata