Published On: Fri, Jan 26th, 2024

SC takes note of Calcutta HC judge vs judge, hearing on Saturday

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday took suo motu cognisance of contradictory orders passed by two benches of the Calcutta high court in a matter alleging corruption in the admission of students to medical colleges this week.

I have no other option but to ignore the order of the said division bench

A notice issued by the Supreme Court indicated that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and the top court’s four seniormost judges – justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose – will hold a special sitting on Saturday at 10.30am. The suo moto case has been titled – “In Re: Orders of Calcutta High Court dated 24.01.2024 and 25.01.2024 and ancillary issues”.

The chain of events started on Wednesday when the single bench of justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe allegations levelled by petitioner Itisha Soren, alleging issuance of fake certificates of reserved caste candidates and their use for admission to medical colleges.

When the high court’s division bench comprising justices Soumen Sen and Uday Kumar stayed the order on the state’s request, justice Gangopadhyay on Thursday made personal remarks against justice Soumen Sen and passed on the case records to a CBI officer and directed the agency to proceed with the case despite the stay granted by the division bench.

The state government approached the division bench of justices Soumen Sen and Uday Kumar by Wednesday afternoon which granted a stay on the CBI probe. As justice Gangopadhyay had directed the CBI official to be present at 2.30 pm that day, the division bench asked the registry to inform CBI that the official’s presence was not necessary and listed the matter for Thursday.

Soon after lunch, the CBI official appeared before justice Gangopadhyay. The single judge bench handed over the papers of the case to the official despite being told about the stay granted by a higher bench of two judges. in his order, justice Gangopadhyay noted that although the petitioner submitted that the matter was mentioned before the division bench on behalf of the state, his bench had no such information from the state counsel.

The next day, acting on the single judge’s order, CBI registered a case in the matter. This despite, the division bench on Thursday morning, hearing the matter and taking exception to CBI going ahead with the probe in the case.

The division bench passed yet another order on Thursday saying, “In view of the fact that we have stayed the order passed during the first half of 24th January, 2024, the subsequent order passed by the learned single judge during the second half of the day is void ab initio.”

The order further directed CBI to immediately return all the documents received a day ago to the state counsel, adding the agency shall not proceed with the matter any further.

Later in the day, justice Gangopadhyay again took up the matter for hearing and questioned the legality of the stay granted by the division bench since no appeal had been filed in writing. “In the said order (granting stay) I have not found any recording of any urgency in the matter. What was so urgent?” justice Gangopadhyay said in his order.

The judge further stated, “I have no other option but to ignore the order of the said division bench as the order has been passed in continuation of the illegal appeal void ab initio. I have ignored the said illegal order passed by the division bench for the reasons as has been stated above, including the ground of ‘interested person Hon’ble Justice Soumen Sen’.”

During the hearing, justice Gangopadhyay even cast aspersion on justice Sen.

To be sure, the petition by Soren that led to the row did not ask for a CBI probe. Justice Gangopadhyay said that when a scam is peeping its head, it is the duty of the court to pass an appropriate order for a thorough investigation into the matter, irrespective of whether the writ petitioner has prayed for a CBI inquiry or not.

The judge further stated in his first order issued on Wednesday that the special investigation team (SIT), constituted by another order of his court to investigate an alleged scam relating to the recruitment of teachers in the state, will probe the present case and that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) may also come in if there is evidence of money trail.

Justice Gangopadhyay also criticised the state police for not being able to arrest the accused involved in an attack on ED officials at Sandeshkhali when officials went to search the premises of Trinamool Congress leader Shajahan Sheikh in connection with an alleged ration distribution scam case in the state’s North 24 Parganas district.

The state government later told the division bench that the single judge passed the order without allowing it to place documents relating to the alleged corruption and show the steps taken by the state police to investigate the case.

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