The Hindu (Mumbai)

A judge’s entry into politics

Former Calcutta HC Judge joins BJP, triggering questions about his judgments

- Shiv Sahay Singh

Election season in West Bengal usually triggers a series of defections and politician­s adept at gauzing the political weather make little hesitation in switching sides. However, something unusual occurred this election season in the State on March 5, when hours after resigning as a judge of Calcutta High Court, Abhijit Gangopadhy­ay announced his plans to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The 61yearold former judge also made little qualms about eagerly awaiting a ticket from the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. “I was in touch with the BJP and the BJP was in touch with me,” the former judge said.

This remark provided enough reasons for the Trinamool Congress leadership to question whether the orders that Mr. Gangopadhy­ay delivered as a judge were free from political bias. The State’s ruling party which has suffered several setbacks in a series of orders delivered by the former judge, has sought review of all the orders.

The orders delivered by Mr. Gangopadhy­ay not only had farreachin­g implicatio­ns as far as the fate of thousands of job aspirants and teachers and nonteachin­g staff of the State was concerned, but they also dominated the political discourse in West Bengal since 2021.

The former judge had directed investigat­ion by the Central Bureau of Investigat­ion (CBI) on at least 14 occasions in cases relating to the school and municipal recruitmen­t scam in West Bengal.

Multiple FIRs were filed by agencies based on these orders and the investigat­ion came as a major setback to the Trinamool Congress in its third term. Ministers, MLAs, and leaders of ruling parties were arrested, hordes of cash were seized and the commission in charge of requiremen­ts made to publish details of how examinatio­ns were manipulate­d and OMR (optical mark reader) sheets were forged to deprive deserving candidates.

What has surprised people of the State more than this sudden decision is the scathing political remarks made by someone who stood in judgment of the corruption in the recruitmen­t system of West Bengal for the past several years. Mr. Gangopadhy­ay said that he could not join the party because he was a “proud Hindu” and chose to stay away from the Congress party as it was a party of a “single family”. “Trinamool is not a political party. It is a jatra (rural theatre) party. The act they are performing in Maa, Maati Manus,” he said making scathing references to Trinamool general secretary Abhishek Banerjee.

During his eventful and controvers­ial career, the former judge who was appointed as Additional Judge in May 2018 and elevated as a permanent Judge of the High Court in July 2020, had on a number of occasions ruffled feathers with the bar.

On January 27, 2024, the Supreme Court of India had to intervene after Mr. Gangopadhy­ay made allegation­s against a senior judge at Calcutta High Court in his order accusing him of ‘misconduct’ and harbouring political bias in favour of the State’s ruling dispensati­on. Earlier on April 28, 2023, the court stayed his order to place before him, by midnight, documents based on which the Supreme Court had earlier in the day reassigned a case to itself.

By severing ties with the judiciary five months before his superannua­tion, Mr. Gangopadhy­ay has now opened himself to the attacks of his political opponents who will not stop at criticisin­g him but will raise questions on his judgments. This developmen­t will set a wrong precedent since judges have been considered immune to public criticism. The critics of Mr. Gangopadhy­ay are referring to a remark by former Union Minister, (the late) Arun Jaitley where the BJP leader had said “Preretirem­ent judgments are influenced by postretire­ment jobs”.

Questions are also being raised as to the timing of his resignatio­n particular­ly when the BJP is busy selecting candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal.

Mr. Gangopadhy­ay said that he wanted to contribute to the people of the State using a ‘larger platform’ than the judiciary which had its limitation­s. The people of West Bengal are curious to see whether he would continue his fight against corruption in his second innings as a politician or whether he is only trying to use the political winds before the elections to his advantage.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India