On Thursday (June 24), the Calcutta High Court reserved the judgement on a plea of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee challenging Nandigram results in the recently-conducted assembly elections in the state. The HC reserved its order on a plea by CM Banerjee that the judge assigned to hear her election petition against BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari recuse himself from the case as he was an "active member" of the BJP like her Nandigram rival.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of Banerjee, sought for the recusal of Justice Kaushik Chanda before whom the matter was listed. Banerjee appeared before the court of Justice Chanda through teleconference, as directed by him on June 18. Justice Chanda, against whom the recusal petition has been filed, heard the matter and reserved his order. The judge did not specify the date for pronouncement of the verdict. Banerjee had moved the high court claiming she apprehended that she may not get justice from the judge due to his alleged BJP links.
Meanwhile, a bench of Justice Chanda said that the petitioner has full right to move for recusal and that they should rest assured that the matter will be decided judicially. Justice Chanda asked Singhvi if he is aware of BJP's organisational structure, to which Singhvi reportedly replied, "I have many friends in BJP. I am broadly aware." To this, Justice Chanda said he is recalling the case.The petitioner's lawyer Singhvi mentioned instances which shows Justice Chanda has connections with BJP and mentioned a case where the Judge moved the intervention application on its behalf. "You lawyers also have political affiliations. You are from Congress and SN Mookherjee (part of CM's legal team) has BJP background. But you are appearing for TMC's Mamata Banerjee's case," said Justice Chanda to Singhvi.
Banerjee's counsel had earlier written to Acting Chief Justice of the high court Rajesh Bindal seeking reassignment of her election petition. Banerjee has claimed in her recusal petition that she has been made aware that Justice Chanda was an "active member" of the BJP. She said since the matter related to adjudication of an election petition where the election of a BJP candidate has been contested, it will have political ramifications. So, she prayed that the acting chief justice, who is the master of roster, assign the matter to another bench.
Banerjee has accused Adhikari, her former confidante- turned-rival, of committing corrupt practices in violation of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. She also alleged irregularities were committed in the counting exercise. According to the result declared by the Election Commission on May 2, Adhikari defeated Banerjee by 1956 votes. The West Bengal chief minister had sought recounting of votes after her defeat by a slender margin but the returning officer turned down the request.
(With Agency inputs)