Narada case: Calcutta HC judge objects to listing of transfer plea as writ petition

‘Our conduct unbecoming of the majesty High Court commands,’ says Judge Arindam Sinha says in letter to Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal.

Expressing objections to the manner in which the transfer plea of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Narada case was listed before the Division Bench as a writ petition, a sitting Judge of the Calcutta High Court has written a letter to Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and other Judges of the High Court lamenting that “our conduct is unbecoming of the majesty the High Court commands”.

In a letter dated May 24, Judge Arindam Sinha said, “Our conduct is unbecoming of the majesty the High Court commands. We have been reduced to a mockery. As such I am requesting all of us to salvage the situation by taking such steps, including convening a full court, if necessary, for the purpose of re-affirming sanctity of our rules and our unwritten code of conduct”.

The communication said that the Appellate Side Rules of the High Court, which govern the procedure of listing in such matters, require that a motion seeking transfer either on the civil or the criminal side, had to be heard by a single judge.

“However, the first Division Bench took up the matter treating it to be a writ petition. The application, if the communication made on 17th May, 2021 can be considered as one, is by investigating agency/ prosecution against the accused person. It could not and was not treated as Public Interest Litigation. Even a writ petition under Article 228 of the Constitution should have gone to the single judge having determination,” the letter said.

Judge Sinha raised the issue that the “mob factor may be a ground on merits for adjudication of the motion but could the first Division Bench have taken it up and continue to hear it as a writ petition is the first question”.

Staying of bail

In the two-page letter, the judge also questioned the manner in which the Division Bench stayed the bail granted by the special court to the accused on May 17. “Whether the High Court, exercising power in the matter of transfer of a criminal case at this stage, on its own initiative could have passed the order of stay is the second question,” the judge said.

The judge also expressed reservation to the reference of the matter to a Bench of five judges after the judges on the Division Bench disagreed.

“When the judges in a Division Bench differ on any point or issue, the same is referred to a third learned judge for opinion. In the premises Rule 1 in Chapter II of Appellate Side Rules do not apply. Chapter VII provides for references to a Full Bench. Such reference arises when view taken by a Division Bench is inconsistent with the view taken by another Division Bench,” the letter said.

Judge Sinha also pointed out that the High Court should include consideration as to whether by citing the COVID-19, “we can stop coming to court and conduct its business wherever we are, our court being a court of record within the meaning of Article 215 of the Constitution”.

The Narada case is being heard by a five-judge Bench of the Calcutta High Court after two-judge Benches differed granting bail to four leaders arrested by the CBI on May 17. On May 17, the investigating agency arrested two Ministers Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra and former Minister Sovan Chatterjee in the case.

A Special CBI Court granted them interim bail that evening, but the bail order was stayed by a Division Bench of the High Court the very same day. The matter is being heard by the five-judge Bench. Hearing on the matter is under way on Friday.

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