Even as lawyers in Kolkata have called for “cease of work” till April 19 over shortage of judges, the Union Law Ministry has given a green signal to the appointment of four judges to the Calcutta High Court. However, the ministry has withheld the name of one judge recommended by the Supreme Court collegium, sources said.
According to sources, the ministry cleared the names of Biswajit Basu, Amrita Sinha, Abhijit Gangopadhyay and Jay Sengupta — members of the bar — to be elevated as judges of the HC. The name of Dr Sutanu Kumar Patra was withheld, they said.
At present, Calcutta HC has 33 judges against the sanctioned strength of 72, and is functioning at 45 per cent capacity. The cases connected to the panchayat polls were heard as an exception due to the exigencies of the situation.
Earlier this month, the HC saw the appointment of three new judges, replacing three judges who retired last year. Three other judges are due to retire this November, and Justice Aniruddha Bose will soon move to Delhi High Court as its Chief Justice — the SC collegium recommended his name on January 10.
President of the Bar Association of Calcutta, Uttam Kumar Majumdar, said, “We have taken a resolution to abstain from work. Our demand is that when the SC collegium has recommended five names, why are the other names pending? Before the names were forwarded to the SC collegium, the government had given the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report along with other reports. Calcutta HC is non-functional… Still the government has not fast-tracked the process.”
Sources in the HC said that the Calcutta HC collegium has sent a fresh list of six more names to the Law Ministry for clearance by the IB, which has to be then forwarded to the SC Collegium for recommendation.
The latest appointments were in connection with the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium of March 26, when it had forwarded five names. The SC collegium recommended the names after the Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta HC on May 4 last year recommended seven names in consultation with her two seniormost colleagues.
The SC collegium did not accept the names of Tirthankar Ghosh and Hiranmay Bhattacharyya. “As regards Tirthankar Ghosh, the collegium needs further information to assess his suitability. The Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court may be requested accordingly. As regards Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, the proposal for his elevation is deferred for the present,” the SC collegium headed by CJI Dipak Misra had said.
In the last one and a half years, the Calcutta HC collegium has recommended 14 names to the SC collegium, and three names are still pending with the law ministry. On December 4, 2017 the SC collegium recommended the names of Shampa Sarkar, Sabyasachi Chaudhury, Ravi Krishan Kapur, Arindam Mukherjee and Sakya Sen — members of the bar — to be elevated as Additional judges of the Calcutta HC.