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Legal crisis in Bengal over slander campaign against HC judge: report

Legal crisis in Bengal over slander campaign against HC judge: report

Kolkata: The legal crisis currently raging in West Bengal will remind many how a top leader of the previous Left Front government engaged in a spat with a judge of Calcutta High Court.

In 2003, late Justice Amitava Lala of Calcutta High Court, made an observation within the court that rallies on the streets of Kolkata should be banned on working days.

His observation came after his vehicle destined for the court got stuck on the roads because of a rally of the ruling party.

Veteran CPI(M) leader and the Left Front chairman Biman Bose in a public meeting raised the slogan "Bicharpoti Lala, Bangla Chhere Pala (Justice Lala, you better flee from Bengal)".

As controversies, both Bose and party leadership decided to take a step ahead in bringing an end to the spat. Bose personally visited the court of Justice Lala and apologised for coining such a slogan.

It is known to many that the longest serving West Bengal chief minister, Late Jyoti Basu was instrumental in initiating an end to the crisis at the time.

This time around things are happening uncontrolled. Throughout the entire past week, the slanderous moves concerning Justice Rajasekhar Mantha of Calcutta High Court have crossed all limits.

The crisis show that not a verdict but a particular representative of the judiciary has become the target of the nastiest ever political attack both within the high court premises as well as outside.

The fiasco started from January 9 morning after slanderous posters were seen pasted on the walls of Justice Mantha's residence and adjacent areas with the judge was slammed for being biased towards the leader of the opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari.

In the posters he was also slammed for his recent verdict removing the protection of shield against any cohesive action, including arrest, by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against Maneka Gambhir, sister-in-law of Trinamool Congress's national general secretary and party Lok Sabha member, Abhishek Banerjee.

From the same day a section of the lawyers of the Calcutta High Court started boycotting Justice Mantha's bench and also started resisting their fellow professionals in entering his court.

The fiasco continued on Monday and Tuesday, until on Wednesday morning Justice Mantha issued a contempt of court rule and also filed a suo motu petition in the matter.

Although the resistance from entering his court stopped, a large section of the public prosecutors and government pleaders continued boycotting his bench thus affecting the progress of the cases where the state government is a party.

The political slugfest is at full rhythm over the development, even as the Trinamool Congress leadership has denied the party's association with the development while maintaining that certain verdicts and decisions of Justice Mantha are bound to create negative repercussions. The opposition parties like BJP and CPI(M) have questioned the absolute silence of the chief minister in the matter.

The legal brains of the state have started raising the question on how a Judge of the Calcutta High Court can become targets of such vicious slanders just because a particular political party is not satisfied with certain judgments and observations of that representative of the judiciary.

Both Calcutta High Court's Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava as well as Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay have expressed thorough dissatisfaction over the development.

Justice Srivastava has observed that the country's oldest high court has a legacy of its own and a judge of that court coming under such attacks at personal level does not speak well. Justice Gangopadhyay claimed that a definite attempt is going on in West Bengal to terrorize members of the judiciary.

Former judge of Supreme Court, Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly (retired) while observing that this is surely an attempt to terrorize the judiciary also said that the great judicial system of the country is not that fragile that it will crumble to such political pressures.

Deputy solicitor general, Billwadal Bhattacharyya said that nowhere in the world such a shame takes place within the court premises. "The development sends bad signals to the entire country," he said.

Senior advocate of the Calcutta High Court and CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya has explained that if anyone is dissatisfied with a particular verdict, he or she can move a higher bench or even higher court challenging that order. "But under no circumstance a judge can be subjected to such a vicious personal attack," he said.

What has kept even the former Indian Police Service (IPS) officers such as the retired additional director general, Nazrul Islam, intrigued is that even after five days since the postering incident was discovered, the police are yet to nab the culprits in the matter despite CCTV footage showing two masked men putting up the posters in front of Justice Mantha's residence on late night of Sunday.

"Failure to track the miscreants after so many days surely puts a question mark on the efficiency of the city police and its intelligence department," Islam said.

IANS with minor edits

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TAGS:Legal crisisslander campaignJustice Mantha
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