Calcutta High Court judge recuses from hearing Mamata Banerjee’s election petition

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee   | Photo Credit: PTI

Calcutta High Court Justice Kaushik Chanda on Wednesday imposed a cost of ₹5 lakh on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee while recusing himself from hearing an election petition filed by her. The court said that the cost has been imposed for “vilification adopted to seek recusal”.

The Chief Minister had filed an election petition in June 2021 before the Calcutta High Court, alleging irregularities in the counting process in the Nandigram Assembly polls. The matter came for hearing before Justice Kaushik Chanda. Ms. Banerjee had urged the judge to recuse himself from hearing the petition, alleging that he had links with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The order said: “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… Such cost should be deposited with the Bar Council of West Bengal within two weeks from date, and upon such deposit, the Bar Council shall set aside the amount for the families of the advocates who had succumbed to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

In a strongly worded order, Justice Chanda said that the petitioner had approached the Hon’ble Chief Justice (Acting) on the administrative side on 16th June, 2021 by way of writing the letter for reassignment of the case. “The election petition was first taken up for hearing on 18th June, 2021, before this Bench, and quite surprisingly, nothing regarding recusal was revealed. No clue was given to me as to the fact that the petitioner had already approached the Hon’ble Acting Chief Justice for reassignment of the petition,” the Judge said.

In the 13-page order, Justice Chanda referred to tweets by leaders of the State’s ruling party, and as well as statements in public, and said 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”.

While recusing himself from hearing the case, Justice Chanda said that he had “no personal inclination to hear out the case of the petitioner. I had no hesitation in taking up the case, either”. “I have, however, decided to recuse myself from this case for a different reason,” the order said.

The Judge also stated, “The imbroglio stemmed from the inception of the litigation was due to the assignment of this case before this Bench. 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. The trial of the case before this Bench will be a tool to aggrandise themselves. 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.”

Since Justice Chanda has recused himself from hearing the petition, the matter will be assigned to a new Bench.

Ms. Banerjee lost the Nandigram poll with a narrow margin of 1,956 votes to the BJP’'s Suvendu Adhikari in the 2021 State Assembly elections. During the day, Ms. Banerjee refused to comment on the order, saying it was a “sub judice matter”.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 9:29:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/calcutta-hc-judge-recuses-himself-from-hearing-mamata-banerjees-election-petition/article35185573.ece

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