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BREAKING : Justice Kausik Chanda Of Calcutta HC Recuses From Hearing Mamata Banerjee's Election Petition; But Imposes Rs 5 Lakh Costs

Akshita Saxena
7 July 2021 5:48 AM GMT
BREAKING : Justice Kausik Chanda Of Calcutta HC Recuses From Hearing Mamata Banerjees Election Petition; But Imposes Rs 5 Lakh Costs
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Justice Kausik Chanda of the Calcutta High Court has recused from hearing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's challenge to Nandigram election results, where she was defeated by BJP's Suvendu Adhikary in the 2021 Assembly Polls.But he has imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakhs on Mamata Banerjee for the manner in which the application seeking recusal was moved.In the order pronounced...

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Justice Kausik Chanda of the Calcutta High Court has recused from hearing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's challenge to Nandigram election results, where she was defeated by BJP's Suvendu Adhikary in the 2021 Assembly Polls.

But he has imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakhs on Mamata Banerjee for the manner in which the application seeking recusal was moved.

In the order pronounced today morning, Justice Chanda said that every person has political inclinations and it was preposterous to think that a judge will not be able to do his duty without a sense of detachment.

"I am unable to persuade myself to agree to the proposition as advanced by Mr. Singhvi that there is a conflict of interest in the matter...The argument of Mr. Singhvi takes too sombre a view of the integrity of a Judge. When a litigant raises the question of bias against a Judge, who has taken the oath to discharge his duties without any fear or favour, the test has to be a real likelihood of bias or real danger of bias. The appearance of impartiality, in such a case, should not be viewed from the perspective of a common man," he observed.

The Judge continued,

"I have no personal inclination to hear out the case of the petitioner. I had no hesitation in taking up the case, either. It is my constitutional obligation and duty to hear out a case assigned to me by the Hon'ble Chief Justice neutrally and dispassionately."

However, he added that he has decided to recuse from the case.

"I have however decided to recuse myself from this case", he said.

"Since the two persons involved in this case belong to the highest echelon of the State politics, in the name of saving the judiciary, some opportunists have already emerged. These trouble-mongers will try to keep the controversy alive and create newer controversies...It would be contrary to the interest of justice if such unwarranted squabble continues along with the trial of the case, and such attempts should be thwarted at the threshold. The hearing of the case should proceed seamlessly, like any other litigation before this Court," he added in the order.

Mamata's objection to confirmation as permanent judge irrelevant ground

In his order, Justice Chanda said  that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assumed that her objection to his confirmation as a permanent Judge is known to him. Such ground is not relevant.

"The petitioner cannot seek recusal based upon her own consent or objection with regard to the appointment of a Judge. A Judge cannot be said to be biased because of a litigant's own perception and action. It is ludicrous to believe that the petitioner would expect a favourable order from a Judge whose appointment she has consented to and vice versa", he observed.

The Judge added,

"If such an argument is accepted, the election petition cannot be tried before this Court since the petitioner, in her capacity as the Chief Minister of the State, has either objected or gave consent to the appointments of most of the Hon'ble Judges of this Court."

Highly confidential information regarding opinion about judge leaked

Justice Chanda took objection to the fact that Mamata Banerje making it public the "highly confidential information" regarding her opinion appointment of a judge. In her letter to the Acting Chief Justice, Mamata Banerjee had mentioned that she had objected to making Justice Chanda a permanent judge.

In this context, Justice Chanda observed "petitioner, being the Chief Minister of the State, who took the oath of secrecy, was constitutionally obliged to maintain the secrecy of such information. In all probability, such a ground has been made in a bid to ensure that anyhow or somehow, the case is not heard by this Bench.".

He said that the settled practice was to approach the concerned judge with an application seeking recusal. However, Mamata Banerjee approached the Acting Chief Justice on the administrative side. When the case was first put up before the bench on June 18, no request for recusal was made, Justice Chanda noted.

"I repeatedly asked Mr. Singhvi as to the reason for such suppression on the first date of hearing. Mr. Singhvi replied that since a formal application was yet to be filed, there was no mention of recusal...This apparently attractive submission of Mr. Singhvi really does not jibe with the series of incidents that immediately followed after the Court proceeding was complete", Justice Chanda observed.

"Dramatis personae were ready to launch a well-rehearsed drama outside the Court...Chief national spoke person and leader of the petitioner's party in the Rajya Sabha was ready by that time with two photographs of mine attending a programme of BJP legal cell in the year 2016", he said.

"The aforesaid chronology of the events that took place on June 18, 2021, clearly suggests that a deliberate and conscious attempt was made to influence my decision before the recusal application was placed before me for judicial consideration on June 24, 2021. The calculated psychological offensives and vilification adopted to seek recusal need to be firmly repulsed, and a cost of Rupees five lakh is imposed upon the petitioner," Justice Chanda said in the order.

The cost was directed to be deposited with the Bar Council of West Bengal within 2 weeks. It was directed to be used for the welfare of families of Advocates who succumbed to COVID-19.

Mamata cited "likelihood of bias" due to Justice Chanda's association with BJP as a lawyer

Banerjee had objected to Justice Kaushik hearing her petition citing "likelihood of bias "due to the associations he had with BJP during his days as a lawyer.

When the matter was heard on June 24, Senior Advocate Dr. AM Singhvi argued for Banerjee that there is a clear conflict of interest, given Justice Chanda's "close, personal, professional, pecuniary and ideological relationship" with the BJP.

Singhvi had also pointed out that Justice Chanda is yet to be appointed as a permanent Judge of the High Court and that Mamata Banerjee has conveyed her objections and reservations to such confirmation.

During the hearing, Justice Chanda had asked that since a "media trial" has already started, will it not look like he is giving in.

'If I Recuse, Will It Be Giving Into Media Trial?' : Justice Kausik Chanda Of Calcutta High Court Reserves Order On Mamata Banerjee's Plea Seeking Recusal

Public opinion does not matter for a judicial determination, Singhvi had responded.

Banerjee was up against the TMC turncoat and BJP candidate Adhikari in the Nandigram Vidhan Sabha Constituency and she was defeated by Adhikari.

However, despite Banerjee's loss in the fiercely-fought Nandigram seat, the ruling Trinamool Congress swept the polls and formed the government in West Bengal for the third consecutive term.


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