‘Though it has nothing to do with the present criminal case, had this been brought to my notice, I would surely have recused myself then and there and not taken up the matter during vacation.’
Justice Protik Prakash Banerjee of the Calcutta High Court has recalled an order he passed in a criminal revision petition on the ground that the co-accused in the case was his ‘lay client’ and this fact was not disclosed to him when he passed the order.
On 1st November, the Calcutta High Court vacation bench presided by Justice Banerjee had stayed criminal proceedings against a police constable for 8 weeks to enable him to file writ petition in the Supreme Court without fear of arrest.
On the same day, sometime after this order was pronounced, the prosecutor mentioned this matter before the bench and sought recall of the order stating that some relevant facts were not noticed in the case. The judge then posted the matter on 15th November for correction/recall of the order.
On 15th November, though the judge got convinced by the public prosecutor, he had to meet the argument of the counsel for the accused, who relied on apex court judgments to contend that even if the judge had passed a wholly erroneous order or an order which contains patent errors, he cannot recall the order.
During the course of argument, the judge noticed the name of the co-accused and said: “When I passed the said order during the vacation Bench that the co-accused who had moved the Hon’ble Supreme Court and obtained an interim order as referred to in page ‘49’ of the petition which inspired the present petitioner to move this Court was a person who was my lay client whom I had represented being instructed by the learned advocate on record in a Election Commission matter a few years back before my elevation.”
The judge also said that this fact was not disclosed to him at the time when he passed the said order during the vacation bench. Recalling the order on this ground, the judge said: “Though it has nothing to do with the present criminal case, had this been brought to my notice, I would surely have recused myself then and there and not taken up the matter during vacation.”