A Calcutta High Court judge, objecting to the handling of the Narada bribery case, has put out a sharp critique of the court alleging “unbecoming conduct” in a letter to senior judges. “We have been reduced to a mockery,” Justice Arindam Sinha writes in the letter that has stunned the judiciary.
Justice Sinha alleges that the CBI’s e-mail asking for the Narada case to be transferred out of Bengal was wrongly listed by the Calcutta High Court before a division bench of two instead of a single judge.
“The High Court must get its act together. Our conduct is unbecoming of the majesty the High Court commands,” Justice Sinha wrote in his letter to acting High Court Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and other judges.
The CBI had sent an e-mail to the High Court on May 17 after arresting four political heavyweights, including two Bengal ministers. A division bench headed by Chief Justice Bindal heard the CBI’s request the same day and put on hold bail granted to the Trinamool leaders.
The CBI had asked for the case to be transferred citing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s sit-in protest at the agency’s office and the crowds of Trinamool supporters who gathered outside the gates of the building. It had also alleged that the state Law Minister went to court “with a mob” when the accused politicians were to be produced, indicating that the state government was vitiating the atmosphere and making it difficult for the investigators.
Justice Sinha wrote in his letter that the CBI’s transfer plea should have been heard by a single judge and should not have been treated as a “writ petition” as there was “no substantial question of law” related to the constitution.
“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 continued to hear it as a writ petition is the first question,” he wrote.
The judge also objected to the division bench passing on the case to a larger bench when the judges disagreed on whether to grant bail to the accused Trinamool leaders, and said the opinion of a third judge should have been taken instead.
“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 reaffirming the sanctity of our rules and our unwritten code of conduct (sic),” Justice Sinha wrote.
He also flagged a High Court notice issued on May 18 that the division bench “could not assemble that day due to unavoidable circumstances”. The public, he said, “was presented with the situation of the High Court having interfered with the liberty of their elected representatives” by not hearing the case at the time.