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‘We have been reduced to a mockery… salvage the situation’: Calcutta HC judge on Narada case

The order for house arrest was made as Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arjit Banerjee differed in their opinion regarding the matter and a larger 5-judge bench would be constituted to hear the plea. While Justice Banerjee was in favour of granting bail, acting CJ Bindal favoured house arrest.

In an unprecedented move, Justice Arindam Sinha, a senior judge of the Calcutta High Court, has written to the acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and all other judges of the high court on the court’s handling of the Narada sting case, calling for a full court to “salvage the situation”.

“The high court must get its act together. 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 has written in the letter that accessed by The Indian Express.

The letter is dated 24 May — which is a day after the CBI moved the Supreme Court challenging a division bench order of the high court that directed the house arrest of ministers Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra, and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee who have been held in the Narada bribery case.

However, the order for house arrest was made as Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arjit Banerjee differed in their opinion regarding the matter and a larger 5-judge bench would be constituted to hear the plea. While Justice Banerjee was in favour of granting bail, acting CJ Bindal favoured house arrest.

Justice Sinha, in his letter, questioned many aspects of the case including why a 5-judge bench was constituted when normally a third judge is added in case of a split verdict in a division bench.

“Chapter VII provides for references to a Full Bench. Such references arise when view taken by a Division Bench is inconsistent with view taken by another Division Bench,” the letter said.

On May 17, the four TMC leaders were arrested by the CBI but were granted bail on the same day by a designated CBI court. However, the CBI petitioned the HC urging the judges to transfer the trial from a special CBI court to the High Court, declare the proceedings in the agency court a nullity in the eyes of the law, and conduct the proceedings afresh. The CBI made a plea that the CBI court had granted bail to the four leaders “under the cloud of mobocracy, pressure, threat and violence and is a nullity in the eyes of law”.

The HC then heard the matter after court hours and stayed the bail granted by the special court.

“The Appellate side Rules require a motion seeking transfer, either on the civil or criminal side, too, be headed by a single judge. However, the First Division Bench took up the matter, treating it to be a writ petition,” Justice Sinha wrote.

Referring to the CBI’s communication that TMC made attempts to the trial court, “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,” Justice Sinha’s letter stated.

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