NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday said there was no reason to grant a request by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Suvendu Adhikari to transfer the election petition filed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee against his victory in Nandigram in 2021 to a high court out of state.
Allowing Adhikari, also the leader of the opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, to withdraw his plea, the bench of Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Hima Kohli said any order to that effect would be treated as an expression of “lack of faith”. in the high court and it was wrong to assume that the high court was unable to deal with complaints about witness safety or the fairness of the trial.
“If we transfer, it will be seen as an expression of lack of confidence in the high court. We will not leave you the choice of the tribunal de grande instance. Let the trial begin. At that time, if the witnesses say that I cannot appear, then you can move the high court. Let the high court control their litigation. We must trust our high courts.
In July last year, Suvendu Adhikari asked the Supreme Court to transfer Mamata Banerjee’s electoral petition against his victory in the 2021 national elections from Nandigram headquarters to an out-of-state high court for a fair trial. . Mamata Banerjee, who lost to Adhikari by 1,965 votes, wants her victory overturned.
Adhikari, in his petition filed through Barrister Surjendu Sankar Das, said, “It cannot be ignored that the Respondent has been the Chief Minister of the State of West Bengal since 2011…Therefore, the majority of Judges of the Calcutta High Court would have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the respondent…the petitioner fears that the election petition will not be adjudicated fairly and impartially before the Calcutta High Court.
Lead attorney Harish Salve, who appeared via video conference for Adhikari, pointed to several circumstances to present the reason for filing the transfer request.
“What is happening in the state is distressing. A judge hearing the case had to recuse himself (stand down) on the grounds that the Chief Minister failed to back his appointment while making him permanent. The High Court Bar Association yesterday offered representation to withdraw the cases of another High Court judge who issued an order in favor of Adhikari.
Salve was referring to the order of June 24 last year in which Judge Kausik Chanda refused to hear the case after Banerjee claimed that as Chief Minister she had refused consent to do so. of Justice Chanda a permanent judge of the High Court. “Will I be able to conduct the business in such a scenario. We have nothing against the judge, but the judges are the recipients.
The bench replied: “We are sure that the shoulders of the high court are quite broad. Judges are quite capable of handling this.
The bench told Salve that he was only concerned with the election petition. “What else is there but the judge having challenged. Your apprehension must have a basis. If the judge perceives that the atmosphere is not conducive to a fair trial, it is in his power to make it pleasant.
The bench, in its order, said: “The petitioner seeks leave to withdraw the motion for transfer stating that he may move the judge presiding over the trial of the election motion in the High Court if the need arises at the future for any administrative order to facilitate the smooth conduct of the trial.
Salve requested the High Court to request the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court to consider their request in order to provide appropriate security for the petitioner and witnesses. The bench denied the request. “The moment we say this is to accept the position that the atmosphere is not pleasant. You are free to go to the president of the court who, in turn, can ask the chief judge to make administrative orders. »
Salve, who was assisted by lawyer Surjendu Shankar Das, referred to CM’s letter wondering how it could be used to seek the disqualification of a judge. “Whether or not a judge should recuse himself from hearing a case is another matter. Even the election of a prime minister has been challenged in this court.
“Today we live in a different culture and philosophy. It is a regrettable fact that a letter has been written by the CM,” Salve said, also referring to a September 1 letter from members of the High Court Bar Association objecting to the another judge, Judge Rajasekhar Mantha, hears questions related to police inaction. alleging that the judge “favored the BJP in his judicial decisions”. “Look what they do to him (judge) if a judge passes an order that is not suitable for the administration.” The judge in question had in September 2021 suspended a further investigation against Suvendu Adhikari in an alleged murder case.
Election petitioner Mamata Banerjee objected to Adhikari’s attempt to avoid the High Court. Lead attorney Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Banerjee, said: ‘Nowhere in his petition did he express concern about his safety. You’re just trying to avoid the high court. His petition must be dismissed as it is a vote of confidence against the entire High Court. »