While recusing to hear the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s plea challenging Nandigram election results, Calcutta High Court Judge Kaushik Chanda imposed a cost of ₹5 lakh. The cost was imposed for the manner in which Mamata Banerjee had sought his recusal from the case.
“I am unable to convince myself that there is a conflict of interest. The applicant has taken too somber a view of integrity of a Judge. I have no personal inclination to hear out Petitioner’s case. I have no hesitation in taking up this case either. It is my Constitutional duty to hear out a case assigned to me by the Chief Justice,” noted Justice Chanda.
“Persons involved in this case belong to higher strata of State politics. Some opportunists have already emerged. These trouble-mongers will try to keep the controversy alive if I don’t recuse.Trial before this Bench will be rendered impossible. It will be contrary to the interests of justice if such unwarranted problem continues along with trial. Such attempts need to be thwarted at the threshold. Hearing of this case should proceed seamlessly like any other litigation. This case stands released from my list,” he added.
Recusal Sought Over “Likelihood of Bias”
Mamata Banerjee had moved Calcutta High Court after losing Nandigram seat to Bharatiya Janata Party’s Suvendu Adhikari. Knowing that the matter has been listed before Justice Kaushik Chanda, she wrote an application to Acting Chief Justice of Calcutta HC alleging him of being an “active member of the BJP” till his appointment as the Additional Solicitor General of India in 2015.
Trinamool Congress Chief’s counsel Sanjay Basu submitted that the CM had already conveyed her objections and reservations about Justice Chanda’s confirmation as permanent judge, and so there was “reasonable apprehension of bias”.
CM Leaked Highly Confidential Information About Judge’s Appointment
Justice Chanda noted that CM Banerjee’s objections to his appointment as a permanent judge is an irrelevant ground for seeking recusal. “A Judge cannot be said to be biased because of a litigant’s own personal action,” he said.
Justice Chanda called it against the oath that Chief Minister takes to maintain the secrecy of such information regarding the appointment of a judge.
No Recusal Request On June 18
Justice Chanda raised questions over approaching Acting Chief Justice instead of the concerned judge. He also questioned why no request for recusal was made on June 18. “I continuously asked Mr. Singhvi regarding suppression of such information. He replied that it wouldn’t have looked nice to allege apprehension of bias in absence of a formal application.This apparently attractive submission of Mr. Singhvi doesn’t gel with the series of incidents that followed immediately after Court proceedings were completed,” noted Justice Chanda.
He further added, “Dramatists were ready to launch a well rehearsed drama outside the Court. Chief National Spokesperson and leader of Petitioner’s party were ready with two photos of mine, attending a programme of BJP legal cell in 2016.”
On June 24, Senior Advocate Dr. AM Singhvi appearing for CM Mamata Banerjee argued that there is a clear conflict of interest, given Justice Chanda’s close, personal, professional, pecuniary and ideological relationship with the BJP.
While hearing the matter, Justice Chanda questioned that “since a media trial has already started, will it not look like he is giving in”.
The High Court bench has directed CM Mamata Banerjee to deposit ₹5 lakh with the Bar Council of West Bengal within two weeks and will be used for the welfare of families of advocates who succumbed to Covid-19.