Updated: July 15, 2021 1:06:37 am
While the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday admitted Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s petition challenging the election of Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram, the BJP MLA moved the Supreme Court seeking to transfer the petition outside West Bengal. Banerjee lost to Adhikari, her former close aide, in a closely contested election from the Purba Medinipur constituency by 1,956 votes.
The election was initially called in her favour. The chief minister has disputed the result.
On Wednesday, Justice Shampa Sarkar of the High Court held that as per a report that her bench had received from the High Court administration, the election petition was filed in compliance with the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.
“As per the office report, the election petition does not suffer from any defect as provided in section 86(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951,” noted the judge.
She directed the Election Commission (EC) to preserve all documents, records, election papers, devices and video recordings related to the election in Nandigram, and said Banerjee’s petition would be taken up for hearing on August 12.
“Pending the decision of this case, all documents, election papers, devices and video recordings etc connected with the election which is under challenge before this court, shall be preserved by the concerned authority who is the custodian of the papers and documents,” said Justice Sarkar.
The judge directed that notices be served on Adhikari and other parties.
She asked the Registrar to issue a copy of the order to the Chief Electoral Officer of West Bengal.
The High Court petition was earlier listed before Justice Kaushik Chanda who recused from the matter on July 7 after Banerjee objected to him hearing the case because of his close connection to the BJP when he was a lawyer.
The TMC chief claimed that the judge was an active member of the BJP till his appointment as the Additional Solicitor General of India in 2015. Since the election of a BJP candidate had been challenged, there were apprehensions of bias in his adjudication of the petition, Banerjee added.
The chief minister had moved the High Court, seeking the re-evaluation of the results on May 21.
On June 16, Banerjee, through her advocate, wrote to the High Court’s acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal about reassigning the case to another bench. Two days later, the TMC tweeted two old photographs of Justice Chanda sharing a stage with state BJP president Dilip Ghosh.
Party MP Derek O’Brien also tweeted a list of “matters where Justice Kaushik Chanda has appeared for the BJP before the Calcutta High Court”.
He listed 10 cases from 2012 to 2014.
On June 24, the judge said he was never a convenor of the BJP Legal Cell, but had represented the party in many cases before the Calcutta High Court.
While recusing himself from the case last week, the judge fined the chief minister Rs 5 lakh for “calculated psychological offensives and vilification adopted to seek recusal”. Justice Chanda said he was recusing from the case to prevent “trouble-mongers” from creating “newer controversies”.
(With PTI Inputs)
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