‘We have been reduced to a mockery’: Calcutta HC judge’s letter to Acting Chief Justice
Sitting judge of Calcutta HC Justice, Arindam Sinha, objected to the manner in which the CBI’s transfer plea in Narada case was listed before a Division Bench as a writ petition
In a significant development, Justice Arindam Sinha, a sitting judge of Calcutta High Court, wrote a letter to Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and other judges of the High Court, objecting to the manner in which the transfer plea filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Narada case was listed before a Division Bench as a writ petition.
The transfer petition under Section 407 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was taken up by a Division Bench of the High Court on May 17 based on an email sent by CBI to the Court and a mentioning made by Additional Solicitor General YJ Dastoor.
The letter by Justice Sinha said that the Appellate Side Rules of the High Court, which govern the procedure of listing in such matters, require that a motion seeking transfer either on the civil or the criminal side, has to be heard by a Single Judge, as per a report carried by Bar & Bench which said it had a copy of the letter.
"However, the first Division Bench took up the matter treating it to be a writ petition. Even a writ petition under Article 228 of the Constitution should have gone to the single judge having determination," he said, as per the report.
The communication (sent by CBI to High Court on May 17) could not have been treated as a writ petition simply because no substantial question as to the interpretation of law has been raised, he added.
"The mob factor may be a ground on merits for adjudication of the motion but could the first Division bench have taken it up and continue to hear it as a writ petition is the first question," the letter said.
The mob factor referred to in the letter was the ground cited by the CBI seeking transfer of the case to High Court - that ministers and TMC supporters gathered inside the CBI office at Nizam Palace as well as the Special CBI Court complex, thereby vitiating the proceedings before the special court.
The judge also questioned the manner in which the Division Bench stayed the bail granted by the special court to the accused on May 17.
"Whether the High Court exercising power in the matter of transfer of a criminal case at this stage on its own initiative could have passed the order of stay is the second question," the judge opined.
The judge also took objection to the reference of the matter to a Bench of five judges after the judges on the Division Bench disagreed.
"When the judges on a Division Bench differ on any point or issue, the same is referred to a third learned judge for opinion. In the premises, Rule 1 in Chapter II of Appellate Side Rules do not apply Chapter VII provides for references to a Full Bench. Such references arise when view taken by a Division Bench is inconsistent with the view taken by another Division Bench," it was stated.
The High Court, he said, “must get its act together”.
"Our conduct is unbecoming of the majesty the High Court commands. We have been reduced to a mockery," the letter lamented, as per the report carried by Bar & Bench.
He, therefore, requested all judges to salvage the situation by taking suitable steps including convening of Full Court, if necessary, for "reaffirming sanctity of our Rules and our unwritten code of conduct."
The hearing before the High Court stemmed from the arrest of four All Indian Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders by the CBI on May 17 in relation to the Narada case.
A Special CBI Court had granted them interim bail that evening, but the bail order was stayed by a Division Bench of the High Court the very same day after a hearing that continued late into the evening.
The stay was granted after the CBI sought a transfer of the case from the Court dealing with the same. It also cited a threat to the probe agency on the ground that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and TMC ministers were sitting on dharna outside the agency's office at Nizam Palace, causing obstruction to justice and creating an atmosphere of fear.
Later, the judges on the Division Bench - Acting CJ Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee - disagreed on aspect of interim bail. This led to the constitution of the 5-judge Bench while the arrested leaders were placed under house arrest instead of lodging them in jail. This order was passed on May 21.
The CBI had then moved the Supreme Court on May 23 challenging the May 21 order passed by a Division Bench of the High Court which had directed that the four TMC leaders be placed under house arrest but the top court refused to entertain the same prompting the CBI to withdraw the plea.
On Friday, the five-judge Bench granted interim bail to the TMC leaders.
Published: 28 May 2021, 7:30 PM