Can’t Consider Prayer for Action against HC Judge, says SC; Tags TMC MP’s Plea with Pending One

The Supreme Court on Friday said it cannot consider TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee’s plea that a direction be issued for suitable action against Calcutta High Court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay for his “continuous politically motivated interviews”.

The top court, however, said the plea of the Diamond Harbour MP and Trinamool Congress general secretary with other prayers will be tagged with the pending suo-motu case which was being heard by a five-judge bench.

The five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, on January 29, had transferred to itself all the petitions related to the alleged scam in issuing caste certificates to candidates aspiring for reserved category MBBS seats in West Bengal after two benches of the Calcutta High Court differed over instituting a CBI probe into it.

Prior to this, the five-judge bench sat on a holiday on January 27 to address the dispute where a defiant Justice Gangopadhyay overruled an order of a division bench that had quashed his direction for a CBI probe and asked the central agency to go ahead with the investigation.

On Friday, a bench comprising the CJI and justices Manoj Misra and Satish Chandra Sharma took note of the submissions of senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Banerjee, that Justice Gangopadhyay is continuously giving “politically motivated interviews” and he be restrained.

Singhvi said a direction be passed to ensure that the remarks of the learned single judge “within or outside the court premises against the applicant/petitioner (Banerjee) should not influence the investigation carried out by the respondents (CBI and ED)”.

He submitted that Justice Gangopadhyay had said that Justice Amrita Sinha was asked about the case involving Banerjee by Justice Soumen Sen and this needed to be looked into.

“You (Singhvi) are seeking a writ of mandamus to take action against a judge for ‘politically motivated’ interviews. We should not be issuing notice on this,” the CJI said.

When Singhvi said he would not be pressing for the specific prayer against the high court judge, the bench said the plea will be tagged with the pending suo-motu case.

The senior lawyer said the prayer seeking transfer of case from the high court bench comprising Justice Amrita Sinha may be considered.

“If you are aggrieved by the conduct of Justice Gangopadhyay then why should we be transferring something from Justice Amrita Sinha’s bench,” the bench asked.

The senior lawyer replied that because Justice Gangopadhyay said that Justice Amrita Sinha was told by Justice Soumen Sen about the case of the TMC leader.

“We have suo-motu taken charge of this. We are tagging your matter with the five-judge bench matter,” the CJI said.

The TMC leader, in the plea, said it was filed to “protect his right to free, fair and impartial access to justice, which is seriously prejudiced by the conduct of a high constitutional functionary i.e., a sitting judge of the hon’ble Calcutta High Court”.

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Banerjee sought issuance of directions to ensure that “remarks /comments by the said single judge within or outside the court premises against the petitioner should not influence the investigation carried out by the respondents herein”.

“Proceedings before Hon’ble Ms. Justice Amrita Sinha in WPA… ‘Soumen Nandy v. State of West Bengal & Ors.’ and connected matters pertaining to the petitioner herein, should be conducted without any interference and uninfluenced by the remarks/comments by Mr. Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay,” the TMC leader said in his petition.

He also sought “postponement of reportage of court proceedings pertaining to the Petitioner herein, for fair and dispassionate judicial consideration of sub judice matters, untainted by media hype and unwarranted statements by third parties”.

The plea said Banerjee is prevented from availing any legal remedy against Justice Gangopadhyay due to constitutional post held by the judge.

“The petitioner is severely prejudiced in other legal proceedings before the hon’ble high court due to the continuous personal tirade by a sitting judge of the same hon’ble high court,” the plea said.

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