A day after Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the Calcutta High Court, who had ordered the CBI probe into alleged irregularities in appointment of teachers and non-teaching staff in government schools in West Bengal, rapped senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Abhishek Banerjee for his remarks against judiciary, parties across the state’s political spectrum shied away from making any comments on the matter on Tuesday.
The ruling TMC’s leaders said any debate over a sitting high court judge’s public comments would be “awkward” which should “rather be ignored”. A senior TMC leader said, “We cannot comment on a sitting high court judge’s reaction. There are some legal protocols which we should follow. Also our party leadership directed us not to comment on any observation or comment made by Justice Gangopadhyay. If there would be anything to say on the matter on behalf of the party, our spokesperson would do it. Or Abhishek Banerjee or Mamata Banerjee may give their reactions.”
Significantly, the leaders from the Opposition parties, including the BJP, CPI(M) and Congress, also declined to give any reactions on the issue. A senior CPI(M) leader said, “It is difficult to make any statement on a the judge’s remarks. We can only say that whatever he said in the interview is right.”
On the remarks made by Abhishek, Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, against a “group of judges”, Justice Gangopadhyay, during an interview with a TV news channel, ABP Ananda, said that he is in favour of “strictest action” against anyone “who points a finger at the judiciary, otherwise people will lose faith in the justice system”.
Justice Gangopadhyay said, “He (Abhishek) once commented on the judiciary. I was not in Kolkata then. I was in Ladakh. Sitting there, I thought I will issue a rule against him. I will summon him. I will take action after that. But back in Kolkata, I found that a petition was filed in the division bench in this regard. The division bench did not consider the issue. They thought he would get extra importance. But, I have a different opinion.”
He also said, “Abhishek Banerjee had said that a group of judges has BJP’s protection (maathai haath aachey). If I call him to prove it, will he able to prove it? Otherwise, he should be jailed for three months for lying. Later, he may get me killed, but that doesn’t bother me.”
On Monday, a PIL was filed before a Calcutta High Court division bench, headed by Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava, seeking to stop the telecast of Justice Gangopadhyay’s interview later in the evening. The bench, however, dismissed the plea, stating, in its order, that “Thus, we find that the petition is based upon mere apprehension with incomplete details. The petitioner has also failed to disclose his full credentials. Thus, no ground for granting the prayer in the writ petition is made out. Hence, we dispose of the present petition reiterating the hope and expectation which we have already recorded in the earlier part of this order.”
In its order, the bench also said, “So far as the reference to the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life adopted by Full Court Meeting of the Supreme Court of India on 7th May, 1997 is concerned, we have no doubt that it is within the knowledge of all the Hon’ble Judges of the Court. Therefore, we have full faith that Hon’ble Judge/Judges of this Court will have due regard to the same while making any statement at any occasion. Same is the position in respect of Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct.”
Citing this order, a senior TMC leader said, “Whatever Justice Gangopadhyay said in the interview, did he give full respect to Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct? The question will be raised in future.”
The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct are intended to establish standards for ethical conduct of judges. They are designed to provide guidance to judges and to ensure a framework for judiciary for regulating judicial conduct. They are also intended to assist members of the executive and the legislature, and lawyers and the public in general, to better understand and support the judiciary.
Meanwhile, a TMC youth leader close to Abhishek, Debangshu Bhattacharya, criticised Justice Gangopadhyay for his remarks, stating in a Facebook post that “If I was there to take interview of the Justice, I would ask him ten more questions.”
Justice Gangopadhyay was appointed as the Additional Judge of the Calcutta High Court on May 2, 2018. He started working as a permanent judge of the high court on July 30, 2020. Prior to that he worked as a lawyer for 10 years. At that time too, he fought various important cases. Before studying law, he had been in government service.
Justice Gangopadhyay has ordered 10 investigations by the CBI in connection with the school jobs scam since 2021, which encompass alleged irregularities in Group C, Group D, primary teacher, upper-primary and higher secondary teacher recruitments.
He is known for having given several other notable verdicts such as in the case of a former Bengali teacher at Shampur High School in Kolkata, Shyamali Ghosh, who retired in November 2005 without being given entry by her school since 1980. On March 5, 2022, Justice Gangopadhyay directed her school to pay her full salary along with 10 per cent interest.