Narada bribery case: Bengal Bar Council seeks removal of Calcutta HC’s acting chief justice; all you need to know

The letter signed by Chairman of the Bar Council, stated that Justice Bindal had stayed an interim order of bail passed by the Special CBI Court ‘in favor of members of a certain political dispensation’

The Bar Council of West Bengal has written a letter to CJI NV Ramana seeking the removal of Justice Rajesh Bindal as the Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court alleging bias on his part.

“We would like to set out some instances which has given rise to the perception that Hon’ble Bindal is an unfair, biased and partial judge and whose continuance at the Hon’ble High Court interferes with the fair and impartial dispensation of justice,” read the six-page highlighting the listing and manner of hearing of the Narada scam case.

Why the Bar Council wants Justice Rajesh Bindal to step down

The letter signed by Chairman of the Bar Council of West Bengal Ashok Kumar Deb, who is also a Trinamool Congress MLA, stated that Justice Bindal had stayed an interim order of bail passed by the Special CBI Court “in favor of members of a certain political dispensation without giving the aggrieved parties an opportunity of being heard” in the bribery case.

“We beseech Your Lordship to take immediate steps for removal of Hon’ble Justice Rajesh Bindal as a Judge of Calcutta High so that the majesty and sanctity of the Calcutta High Court is upheld and to ensure people’s confidence in judiciary does not fall to pieces,” the letter said.

RECAP: What happened on 17 May?

It may be noted that on 17 May, the CBI had arrested Trinamool Congress leaders – Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former party leader Sovan Chatterjee in connection with the case.

The division bench had stayed the bail granted by the Special CBI Court at Kolkata to the ministers in a late-night hearing the same day after the CBI challenged the earlier order.

On the same day, the CBI filed a petition to transfer the Narada case from the Special CBI Court to the High Court itself.

Justice Bindal leads the five-judge bench which is hearing the CBI’s transfer plea in the Narada case and also the West Bengal post-poll cases, Live Law reported.

The Bar Council letter further mentioned: “Justice Arindam Sinha of the Calcutta High Court had even written to other judges, including Bindal, expressing his displeasure at the handling of the case.”

In the letter dated 24 May, Sinha had taken “serious exception to the manner in which the Narada bail matter was handled by the division bench headed by Hon’ble Justice Bindal”.

What is the TMC saying? 

Deb also referred to the way bail to the four accused in the Narada case was withheld without hearing the accused and “improper listing” of various cases, including the election petition of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee challenging the Nandigram poll results in the state Assembly elections.

The letter referred to listing the election petition before Justice Kausik Chanda “while being completely and fully aware of Hon’ble Justice Chanda’s long-standing association with the BJP”.

Banerjee has sought his recusal citing “likelihood of bias”. She has alleged that Chanda was associated with the BJP during his days as a lawyer.

The letter also alleged that the five-judge bench allowed the CBI to file multiple affidavits in the Narada case, but did not give permission to the chief minister and West Bengal Law Minister Moloy Ghatak to do so.

On 9 June, the division bench declined to admit affidavits from Banerjee and Ghatak challenging CBI’s transfer plea. The two leaders then approached the Supreme Court, which directed the high court to admit their affidavits before deciding on the transfer plea.

Further, taking note of the social media posts, the letter to CJI alleged that “an impression is sought to be given that Justice Bindal is BJP’s man through and through”.

“There are pictures of Justice Bindal visiting Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar’s house which are widely published on social media. These pictures coupled with the conduct of Justice Bindal mentioned above seem to suggest that he is doing the bidding of the Governor at the Calcutta High Court,” alleged the letter.

What is BJP saying?

The BJP described the letter as an attempt to “browbeat the judiciary” and said that reason for seeking Justice Bindal’s removal was political.

“Just because Calcutta High Court is holding the Mamata Banerjee administration to account for the post-poll violence, the chief minister is using Ashok Kumar Deb, TMC MLA from Budge Budge, under the garb of Bar Council, to seek the removal of acting Chief Justice. Bid to browbeat judiciary?” BJP leader and co-observer to West Bengal Amit Malviya said.

He alleged that Deb wrote to the CJI demanding the high court acting chief justice’s removal over his decision to “assign the Nandigram matter to Justice Kaushik Chandra” and also his move to stay the bail of state minister Firhad Hakim and others in Narada case.

Retweeting Malviya’s post, BJP MLA Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury also maintained that it is a matter of grave concern.

“After His Excellency the Governor, now the Chief Justice is under attack,” the Englishbazar MLA tweeted.

“I am apprehensive about the safety of millions of common men and women, elderly and disabled, youth and children who may fall prey to the wrath of unruly rulers,” she added.

Who is Justice Rajesh Bindal?

Justice Bindal was appointed as a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2006, according to Live Law. He was appointed as the acting chief justice of the Common High Court for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh in December, 2020.

He was later transferred to the Calcutta High Court on 5 January, 2021. He took over as acting chief justice of Calcutta High Court after Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan demitted office on 28 April, 2021.

With inputs from agencies


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