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Heated Exchanges Erupt Between Calcutta HC Lawyers & Judge Over Allowing Journalists To Video Record Hearing

Aaratrika Bhaumik
20 Aug 2022 5:43 AM GMT
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In an unprecedented development, a heated verbal exchange took place between Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay and lawyers of the Calcutta High Court on Thursday after the judge allowed journalists present in the courtroom to make a video recording of the hearing pertaining to the illegal appointment of teachers in the state-run schools of West Bengal.

Justice Gangopadhyay had directed six allegedly illegally appointed teachers to appear before the Court in person on Thursday including daughter of arrested TMC leader Anubrata Mondal in connection with an allegation that she and five others were appointed in primary schools without having cleared the Teachers' Eligibility Test (TET). The petitioners had claimed that some people closely related to Mondal had been given jobs as teachers, including Sukanya, who had allegedly never visited Kalikapur Primary School in Birbhum, where she was employed.

Mondal, the party's Birbhum district president, is currently in the custody of the CBI in an alleged cattle smuggling case after a Division Bench refused him protection from arrest.

Justice Gangopadhyay had earlier ordered CBI investigation in a number of cases of alleged irregularities in appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff in West Bengal government-sponsored schools in the State.

At the outset of the hearing on Thursday, the judge stated in open court that he would permit journalists to film proceedings of the case on their phones contrary to established practice. It may be noted that recording of court proceedings is banned as per the Supreme Court's rules on video conferencing which stipulate that any unauthorised usage of live-streaming will be punishable under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, Information Technology Act, 2000, and other provisions of law, including the law of Contempt.

However, several lawyers present in the courtroom objected to this including senior advocate and former Congress MLA Arunava Ghosh who urged the judge not to turn the courtroom "into a bazaar". The senior counsel who is representing Sukanya Mondal in the case, is also the president of the Calcutta High Court Bar Association.

Addressing the judge, the senior counsel also remarked that there are rumours that the journalists also visit Justice Gangopadhyay in his chambers.

Responding to the allegation, Justice Gangopadhyay replied: "Yes, They go to my chamber. So, what's the objectionable thing in that?". Taking grave objection, the judge also said that he would charge senior advocate Arunava Ghosh with contempt of court and also send him to prison.

To this, Ghosh remarked, "I know, my Lord, how to deal with a judge..you do not know the law".

"I also know how to deal with a hooligan like you," Justice Gangopadhyay retorted.

At this point, another counsel intervened and claimed that he had not seen the judge pass a single judgment in the last six years. To this, Justice Gangopadhyay said, "Not passed a single judgment? You have not read anything. You don't know take facts."

Justice Gangopadhyay further warned the lawyers from using "unparliamentary language" in the courtroom and reiterated that he would slap contempt of court charges against the lawyers. In response, the errant lawyers audaciously remarked that the judge should go ahead and issue a rule of contempt against them and that the matter could then be taken up judicially.

Another lawyer representing three of the accused persons also took objection to the judge's remarks. Addressing the lawyer, Justice Gangopadhyay further remarked, "I have already decided what will be the order today. Don't show me your red eyes".

Surprisingly, the agitated lawyers responded in unison "We shall show". "If you show, I will hold you in contempt", Justice Gangopadhyay retaliated.

The judge then proceeded to dictate the order. Requesting the judge to decide the case solely on merits, senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya implored, "Let the matter be taken on merit".

The judge consequently listed the matter for further hearing on September 1.

Justice Gangopadhyay had earlier also found himself to be embroiled in controversy after he passed a scathing order taking grave objection to a Division Bench of the High Court directing him to accept documents in a 'sealed cover' pertaining to the case relating to illegal appointment of 'Group-D' staff in State-run schools. Recording his displeasure, the judge had observed, "I do not know what this court will do with a sealed cover in this proceeding when the hand of this appeal court has been tied by the above observation. I have been prevented from taking any consequential step on going through the said affidavit of assets."














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