The Bar Council of West Bengal has urged Chief Justice of India NV Ramana to remove the acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court Rajesh Bindal, accusing him of being biased.
The allegation against the acting chief justice has cast a shadow on the administration of justice at a time when the high court is hearing several high profile cases.
In a six-page ‘confidential’ letter to the CJI, chairman of the West Bengal Bar Council Ashok Kumar Deb cited nine instances “which has given rise to a perception that honourable Justice Bindal is an unfair, partial and biased judge.”
The letter alleged that Justice Bindal’s continuation at the high court “interferes with the fair and impartial dispensation of justice.”
The bar council said that in the Narada case, Justice Bindal had stayed an interim bail order passed by a special CBI Court in “favour of members of a certain political dispensation without giving the aggrieved parties an opportunity of being heard.”
A division bench of Justice Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee had stayed the bail granted by the lower court to three Trinamool Congress leaders Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and a former minister Sovan Chatterjee, who were arrested by the CBI earlier in the day on May 17.
“If that was not all, the manner in which the Central Bureau of Investigation had approached the honourable Calcutta High Court by way of an application /letter, based on which an interim order of bail was stayed and the liberty/relief granted to the accused persons were snatched away indicate that Honourable Justice Bindal does not have any regard for judicial propriety and has committed a mockery of the judicial conscience,” the letter alleged.
A sitting judge of the high court justice Arindam Sinha had also raised questions about the handling of the bail order.
“Our conduct is unbecoming of the majesty the High Court commands. We have been reduced to a mockery. As such, I am requesting all of us to salvage the situation by taking such steps, including convening a full court, if necessary, for the purpose of re-affirming sanctity of our rules and our unwritten code of conduct,” Justice Sinha had said in a letter to all judges of the high court.
Deb also quoted Justice Sinha in his letter to the CJI to make his case against the acting chief justice.
He also cited how Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s petition against the election result in Nandigram constituency was assigned to Justice Kausik Chanda, who “is known to have a deep and profound association with the BJP and its leaders.”
“Further, vide various social media posts and impression is sought to be given that honourable Justice Bindal is BJP’s man through and through,” the letter said citing pictures of the justice visiting Governor Jagdeep Dhankar that were posted on social media.
The leaked letter created a furore in the state’s legal as well as political circles as Justice Bindal is currently hearing the CBI’s transfer petition in the Narada case and also the West Bengal post-poll cases.
BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya in a tweet posed whether the letter was an attempt to browbeat judiciary at a time when the court was “holding the Mamata Banerjee administration to account for the post-poll violence.”
Some elected bar council members such as Samir Paul, Rabindranath Bhattacharya, Mihir Das, Uttam Mazumdar and others also distanced themselves from the bar council’s letter saying it was the personal opinion of the chairman.
When contacted Deb, who is also an MLA of the Trinamool Congress, refused to comment on the letter, a copy of which is also available with The Federal, saying it was “confidential” and was not supposed to be discussed in the media.
He, however, said the observations made in the letter were not against “any individual” but against the system prevailing in the high court now.
Senior lawyer and CPI (M) MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said the “letter amounts to interference with the administration of justice.”