The counsel of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to the secretary of the Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, seeking reassignment of her petition challenging the election of BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram to another bench.
At present, the plea is being heard Justice Kaushik Chanda, who the counsel claimed was “an active member of the BJP". Since the adjudication of the election petition will have political ramifications, it was prayed that the matter be assigned to another judge by the Acting Chief Justice, who is the master of roster.
The Trinamool Congress supremo’s lawyer also stated in the letter that she “had objected to the confirmation of the Hon’ble Judge as a Permanent Judge of the Hon’ble High Court at Calcutta" and as such, apprehends there is a likelihood of bias on the part of the judge concerned. The counsel urged that the letter be placed before the Acting Chief Justice forthwith “for necessary re-assignment of Election Petition so as to avoid any prejudice and/or presumption of prejudice".
Earlier in the day, Justice Chanda adjourned till June 24 Banerjee’s petition for declaring election of Adhikari, the Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, from Nandigram null and void. Banerjee has alleged possibilities of tampering of EVM machines and suspected foul play behind counting of votes for Nandigram seat. She has accused Adhikari of committing corrupt practises as mentioned under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. She had moved the high court after her plea before the Election Commission seeking a recount was turned down.
A section of lawyers also staged a protest in front of the high court over Justice Chanda being assigned to hear the election petition by the Trinamool Congress supremo. “We have no personal ill-feeling or allegation against the judge, but he was associated with a particular political party," one of the lawyers said. The judge should recuse himself from hearing Banerjee’s plea, he added.
Listing the matter for hearing on next Thursday (on June 24), Justice Chanda asking Banerjee’s lawyer to serve copies of the petition to the opponent parties. He also said that Banerjee is required to be present on the first day of the hearing as it was an election petition.
Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress also tweeted from its official handle an image of Justice Chanda with state BHP president Dilip Ghosh. “Justice Kaushik Chanda is seen sharing a stage with BJP’s @DilipGhoshBJP. Unsurprisingly, he’s also the judge who has been assigned to hear the #Nandigram case. As the Indian Judiciary system gets murkier day by day, will there be any justice in this case? Only time will tell.”
Justice Kaushik Chanda is seen sharing a stage with BJP's @DilipGhoshBJP. Unsurprisingly, he's also the judge who has been assigned to hear the #Nandigram case.As the Indian Judiciary system gets murkier day by day, will there be any justice in this case? Only time will tell. pic.twitter.com/eE0W8pzbfw
— All India Trinamool Congress (@AITCofficial) June 18, 2021
TMC MP Derek O’Brien further wrote, “Who is that person ‘circled’ in both pics? Is he Justice Kaushik Chanda of Calcutta High Court? Has he been assigned to hear the Nandigram election case? Can the judiciary sink any lower?
However, BJP state vice-president Joy Prakash Majumdar hit out at the ruling camp’s move and said the judiciary should be respected. He said, “It is unfortunate that the ruling party in Bengal is behaving in such a manner. They should respect the judiciary. I also condemned the tweet of TMC MP Derek O’Brien.”