In a surprise development, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to the Calcutta High Court, urging that her petition challenging the election of BJP's Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram be re-assigned to a different judge. The petition is presently assigned to Justice Kausik Chanda.
In a letter written on behalf of the Chief Minister by her advocate, and delivered to the Chief Justice of the high court on June 16, Banerjee outlined two reasons for the request.
"My client has filed the election petition challenging the election of Suvendu Adhikari, a member of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The adjudication of the election petition shall also have political ramifications. My client has been made aware that the Hon'ble Justice Kaushik Chanda was an active member of the BJP. Thus, in the event the Hon'ble Judge takes up the election petition, there will be reasonable apprehension in my client's mind of bias on the part of the Hon'ble Judge in favour of the respondent and/or against my client," the letter read.
"In any event, in view of the fact that the respondent in the election petition is a member of the BJP and the Hon'ble Judge was an active member of the BJP, it will lead to a situation and perception whereby the Hon'ble Judge, in adjudicating the matter, may be said to be 'judge in his own cause'. Justice must not only be done; it must also be seen to be done," the letter added.
The letter further said, "Sometime in April 2021, my client had received a letter from the Hon'ble Chief Justice of this Hon'ble court for confirmation of Hon'ble Justice Kausik Chanda as a permanent judge of this court. My client had objected to the confirmation of the judge as a permanent judge of the High Court at Calcutta.
"Further, the Hon'ble Justice Kausik Chanda is yet to be confirmed as a permanent judge of this court. As stated above, my client's views were sought by the Chief Justice on the confirmation of Justice Kausik Chanda as a permanent judge of the High Court at Calcutta. My client had conveyed her objections and reservations to any such confirmation. My client apprehends that the judge is aware of her objections and as such my client reasonably apprehends that there is a likelihood of bias on the part of the Hon'ble judge."
"In the aforesaid circumstance, in order to sustain the confidence of the public in the judiciary, the aforesaid election petition ought to be reassigned. Hence, I on behalf of my client, humbly beseech you to forthwith place this letter before the Chief Justice (Acting) for necessary re-assignment of the election petition so as to avoid any prejudice and/or presumption of prejudice against my client," the letter said.
Meanwhile, Trinamool spokesperson Kunal Ghosh suggested that Justice Chanda "may likely have a soft spot for (the BJP) unconsciously" and "perhaps he should leave this case".
Banerjee has filed an election petition against her one-time aide-turned-BJP leader of the opposition, Suvendu Adhikari, in the Calcutta High Court challenging his poll victory from Nandigram, praying to the court to declare the election null and void.
Banerjee had contested and lost the elections from Nandigram against Adhikari. The petition was briefly heard On Friday morning by Justice Chanda before it was adjourned to June 24.