Mamata Banerjee has written to the Calcutta High Court to ask that her petition challenging the election of the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram be re-assigned to a different judge.
The case is currently assigned to Justice Kaushik Chanda.
In a letter written on behalf of the Chief Minister by her advocate, and delivered to the Chief Justice on June 16, Ms Banerjee outlined two reasons for the request.
One is that there are reports Justice Chanda was associated with the BJP in the past, and Ms Banerjee said there is “reasonable apprehension of bias… in favour of the Respondent…”.
The respondent in this petition is Mr Adhikari.
Ms Banerjee also said she “reasonably apprehends likelihood of bias” because in April she had objected to Justice Chanda’s confirmation as a permanent judge of the Calcutta High Court.
“… it will lead to a situation and perception whereby the Honourable Judge, in adjudicating the matter, may be said to be ‘judge in his own cause’,” the Chief Minister wrote.
“Justice must not only be done; it must also be seen to be done,” she added, as she underlined the need to “sustain the confidence of the public in the judiciary”.
Earlier today Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien tweeted two photographs that appeared to show Justice Chanda at a meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Law & Legal Affairs Department.
“Who is that person ‘circled’ in both pics? Is he Justice Kaushik Chanda of Calcutta High Court? Has he been assigned to hear the Nandigram election case? Can the judiciary sink any lower?” he said.
The Trinamool’s spokesperson, Kunal Ghosh, suggested Justice Chanda “likely may have a soft spot for (the BJP) unconsciously” and said “perhaps he should leave this case”.
Ms Banerjee’s petition was briefly heard this morning by Justice Chanda and adjourned to June 24.
Sources said that in cases related to the Representation of the People Act the petitioner – in this case Ms Banerjee – is required to be present in court. Otherwise, the court may dismiss the plea.
Mamata Banerjee was not present in court today and it is not clear if she will be next week.
Ms Banerjee had moved the court to challenge the result of the election from Nandigram; she’d contested the seat against protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari and lost by less than 2,000 votes.
She asked for Mr Adhikari’s election be declared void on commission of corrupt practices including bribery, promotion of hatred and enmity, seeking of votes on the basis of religion.
In addition, this evening four other Trinamool leaders who had lost their electoral races also filed petitions. These four are: Shantiram Mahato (from Balarampur), Alorani Sarkar (from Moyna), Manas Majumdar (from Goghat) and Ashok Dinda (from) Bongaon Dakshin.
In Shantiram Mahato’s case the court has passed an order.
In view of these cases the High Court has said that all poll-related documents must be kept intact.
May 2 – the day of counting of votes, which went on till midnight – saw several twists and turns.
Ms Banerjee trailed Mr Adhikari for 11 rounds but the trend changed in the next four, with margins ranging from six to 11,000. Mr Adhikari gained in the final rounds and was declared winner.
Indicating possible irregularities, the Chief Minster alleged the next day servers were down for four hours during the counting. She also claimed the election officer had been threatened.
Ms Banerjee had said she accepted the verdict of the people, but she also said she would go to the Supreme Court over the way the Election Commission had conducted the polls.