28 April 2023 3:02 PM GMT
In a special sitting held at 8 PM today, the Supreme Court stayed an unusual order passed by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the Calcutta High Court earlier today, directing the top court's secretary general to provide him with the translation of a controversial media interview that was placed before a bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud in the morning. Taking exception to...
In a special sitting held at 8 PM today, the Supreme Court stayed an unusual order passed by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the Calcutta High Court earlier today, directing the top court's secretary general to provide him with the translation of a controversial media interview that was placed before a bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud in the morning.
Taking exception to Justice Gangopadhyay's television interview about the sub-judice matter before him, the apex court had earlier today directed the West Bengal primary teachers' recruitment scam case to be transferred from his bench. Following that, today evening, Justice Gangopadhyay passed an order suo motu, directing the Secretary General of the Supreme Court to produce before him the translation of the interview which was placed before the CJI. The judge gave a deadline of midnight today for the Secretary-General to comply with the order.
In view of this extraordinary development, a special sitting of a bench comprising Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli was convened at 8 PM tonight.
"Pursuant to the earlier order passed today earlier, the learned judge passed an order on the judicial side which was not proper", Justices AS Bopanna orally said.
"The learned judge ought not to have passed the order. It may be stayed", SG agreed with the bench.
"As rightly pointed out by the learned Solicitor General, the order of the present nature ought not to have been passed in a judicial proceeding, more so, keeping in view of judicial discipline", the bench recorded in the order while staying it. The bench directed the Secretary General of the Court to communicate the stay order immediately to the Calcutta High Court Registrar General for informing the judge.
At the heart of the controversy is a public interest litigation (PIL) petition pending before the Calcutta High Court alleging irregularities, illegalities, and corruption in the recruitment of assistant teachers in primary schools of the state on the basis of the 2014 Teacher Eligibility Test. Although earlier this year, the top court refused to entertain a petition filed by the West Bengal government questioning the maintainability of the plea before the high court, today, a bench comprising Chief Justice Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha agreed to direct the acting chief justice of the high court to reassign the matter. This decision was passed in light of the media interview given by the presiding judge, Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay, a transcript of which was placed before the top court. Justice Gangopadhyay had earlier directed the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to question the ruling Trinamool Congress party national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee.
The order under the scanner was passed by Justice Gangopadhyay earlier today in a suo moto matter wherein he observed that he would be waiting in his chamber till 12:15 AM to receive the copy of the official translation of the interview given by him and the affidavit of the Registrar General of the High Court in that regard. He wrote:
"For the sake of transparency, I direct the Secretary General of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to produce before me the report and the official translation of the interview given by me in media and the affidavit of the Registrar General of this Court in original, forthwith by 12 midnight today. This is required for the sake of transparency. I will be waiting in my chamber till 12:15 in the midnight to get the two sets in original placed before the Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court today."
This order was passed by Justice Gangopadhyay hours after the Supreme Court's direction to the Acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court to reassign the matter concerning the Primary Teachers' Recruitment Scam in West Bengal to another judge. This development came four days after the apex court took exception to Justice Gangopadhyay's interview with ABP Ananda wherein he allegedly spoke against Banerjee. The court had remarked that "judges have no business granting interviews on matters which are pending" and had sought a clarification as to whether the purported statements were made by the single judge or not.
Before passing the order today, the bench headed by Chief Justice Chandrachud perused a report and the transcript made by the translation department of the original side of the top court, along with the affidavit of the registrar general in that regard. Ultimately, the bench pronounced:
"Pursuant to the order of this court, the registry has placed the affidavit. We have considered the note by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay and have also perused the transcript of the interview. Having considered the transcript, we direct that the Hon'ble acting Chief Justice of High Court of Calcutta shall reassign the pending proceedings in the case to some other judge. The judge to whom it is reassigned shall be at liberty to take up any application in that regard. Anybody who wants to make an application, that judge will consider it."
Notably, in an oral remark, the chief justice also observed:
"Judges take on a very arduous duty. The only reason we're asking for the case to be reassigned is because of the transcript - no other reason. They can't say in the public realm that the judge was biased...You're right, no judges should be browbeaten. As a chief justice, if I come across that, we'll take it up on the administrative side."
The bench also clarified that the transcript of the interview justified the Supreme Court's order.
Read the order here.