Updated: September 26, 2021 10:09:44 pm
Twenty-four hours after Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb asked civil service officials and executives to work for the people without “worrying about contempt of court” and said it is not easy to make indiscriminate arrests as the CM is “in charge of the police”, his comments have gone viral on social media.
The statements have drawn bitter recriminations from opposition parties, with Trinamool Congress General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee calling Deb a “disgrace to the entire nation” for “mocking the judiciary”.
The CM’s comments came at the 26th biennial conference of the Tripura Civil Service Officers’ Association at Rabindra Shatabarshiki Bhawan here on Saturday.
In the video which went viral on social media, Deb is heard saying, “I want to tell you, don’t do these things to me…(I hear officials say) ‘Sir, there will be problems with the system’. What problems will happen? (They say,) ‘Sir, we can’t take risk, there will be contempt of court’…Who has gone to jail in Tripura for contempt of court? I am here. If you go, I shall go before you…It’s not that easy to take you to jail. In order to go to jail, the police are needed. The Chief Minister is in charge of the police. They can’t send someone to jail just like that.”
The CM added, “…this contempt of court is said as if a tiger were sitting. I am the tiger. Power is with the main person running the government. That means all power is with the people. We are a by-the-people government, not by-the-court government. Today, we often see (cases of) contempt of court. Has contempt been committed? The former chief secretary told me that he could be charged under contempt of court and would go to jail. [He told me] that he would die. Let him die. We bid him adieu.”
In his tweet, where he tagged a video clip of the CM’s speech, TMC General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee wrote, “@BjpBiplab is a DISGRACE to the entire nation! He shamelessly mocks Democracy, MOCKS the Hon’ble JUDICIARY and seemingly gets away with it! Will the SUPREME COURT take cognizance of his comments that reflect such grave disrespect?”
While the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) has not issued any formal statement on the issue, media advisor to the CM Sanjay Mishra replied the tweet and wrote, “You must listen to the full speech before spreading your fake propaganda which you have learned from your political guru CPM and how much respect you have for government institutions we all know that.”
In his speech, Deb had cited a recent attack on a Block Development Officer at Poangbari in South Tripura district and said, “I come from a party. There was an incident with a BDO in the meantime. I am very ashamed…TCS officials came to me to thank me for arresting (the people involved).”
Asking executive officials and bureaucrats to discuss issues with elected public representatives, the CM said, “Field officers like BDO, SDM and Panchayat Secretary who have public relationship should not focus on whether elected public representatives of the ruling side like pradhans, upa-pradhans, chairmen and vice-chairmen have capability at par or less than yourself. You should listen to what they say and try to do the work…They would not differentiate and say the BDO is fine. Or else, they ask for BDOs and then themselves ask to change them.”
Citing former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Biplab Deb also said court is the agency to implement laws made in the legislature. “Court is for the people, and people are not for the court. Once (former) Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said this, when the Supreme Court said 11 MPs would not retain their posts. He said their positions would stay and said lawmakers are there to make laws. You (court) are there to implement the law. He said (court) is the agency to implement laws that we (lawmakers) make,” he said.
Deb defended his comments saying holding back promotions of public servants for a pending court issue is not fair since “injustice” would be done to the retiring employees.
“….Cabinet decision can be done to do it. We shall do their promotion. How many days shall we make them wait? They go to retirement and injustice is being done to them. They (officials) say contempt of court will be committed. Contempt seems like a tiger is sitting somewhere. I am the tiger. Power is with the main person running the government. The means all power is with the people. We are a by-the-people government, not by-the-court government,” he said.
Deb also asked officials to work with “niyat, neeti and niyam” (well intention, principle and regulations). “Don’t work only if the CM, the secretary or the DM asks you to. You will become exceptional if you work on your own. If you are on the field, distributing relief and ration in a flood before the Chief Secretary arrives, people will remember you,” he said.
His comments have strong criticism from the opposition political parties. Tripura CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury condemned Deb’s comments saying, “It is very much astonishing and unfortunate. How can a person holding the chair of the highest constitutional person of a state pass a comment, which is totally against the spirit of the Constitution! It is abusing the spirit of the Constitution. A CM directly undermined the court and rule of law. The result will be encouragement for miscreants, anti-socials who were breaching peace since last 3.5 years which is a big danger for the state. I request the CM not to speak like this and become conscious of his position.”
Tripura Congress president Birajit Sinha reacted to it saying, “Every person should honour the judiciary, should obey the court order. The clash between judiciary and executive is not desired to happen for the sake democracy.”
On the other hand, BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said interpreting CM Deb’s comments as an endorsement of contempt of court is “wrong”.
“This is a wrong interpretation of his statement. Many pro-people development works are delayed on the pretext of contempt of court. Many officers have a tendency of delaying things with this pretext. This was the old system of (CPM-ruled) Tripura. Our government is run by the people. There is a direct participation of people in development activities. There hasn’t been a single case of contempt of court against the state government. A section of officials still try to scare people with this issue. The CM said this to explain that ministers or the CM do sign documents and would face any action before officials in case it draws to the court. He tried to encourage officials to work for the people. He didn’t endorse contempt of court,” Bhattacharya said.
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