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Judge Recuses from Hearing Mamata's Nandigram Plea, Imposes Rs 5 Lakh Fine

Bengal CM Banerjee had previously sought for the recusal of the judge from the case over his alleged BJP leaning.

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India
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Calcutta High Court Judge Kausik Chanda on Wednesday, 7 July, recused himself from hearing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's case that seeks to challenge BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari's win in Nandigram in the 2021 state elections.

Justice Chanda's recusal comes weeks after Banerjee had requested for the withdrawal of the judge from the case over his alleged BJP leaning.

Justice Chanda, even as he decided to recuse himself from the case over an alleged conflict of interests, imposed a fine on Rs 5 lakhs on Mamata Banerjee for the manner in which withdrawal was sought, Live Law reported.

The Calcutta High Court judge said that it was the norm to file an application seeking recusal with the concerned judge himself. However, Banerjee had approached the Acting Chief Justice on the administrative side for the purpose of reallocation of the case, Bar and Bench reported.

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Moreover, in her letter to the Acting Chief Justice, the chief minister had mentioned her previous objections to the appointment of Justice Chanda as a permanent judge. Justice Chanda observed that 'the Chief Minister has an oath to maintain the secrecy of such information'.

Responding to the allegations of his connection to the BJP, the judge stated that all citizens have their own political inclinations, and that they should not serve as the grounds for apprehension of bias in legal proceedings.

"I am unable to convince myself that there is a conflict of interest. The applicant has taken too somber a view of integrity of a Judge. I have no personal inclination to hear out petitioner's case. I have no hesitation in taking up this case either. It is my Constitutional duty to hear out a case assigned to me by the Chief Justice," the judge stated, as per a Live Law report.

TMC leader Derek O'Brien took to Twitter to protest against the fine imposed on CM Mamata Banerjee.

The IT President of BJP, on the other hand, welcomed the cost imposed on Banerjee, and alleged that her defamatory actions lead to the erosion of Indian citizens' trust in the country's institutions.

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Why Did Banerjee Seek Justice Chanda’s Recusal?

Banerjee wrote to the Calcutta High Court on 18 June and urged that her petition be re-assigned to a different judge.

“My client has been made aware that the Hon'ble Justice Kaushik Chanda was an active member of the BJP. Thus, in the event the Hon'ble Judge takes up the election petition, there will be reasonable apprehension in my client's mind of bias on the part of the Hon'ble Judge in favour of the respondent and/or against my client,” the letter read.

Banerjee has filed an election petition against her one-time aide-turned-BJP leader of the opposition, Suvendu Adhikari, in the Calcutta High Court challenging his poll victory from Nandigram, praying to the court to declare the election null and void. Banerjee had contested and lost the elections from Nandigram against Adhikari.

The petition was briefly heard on Friday morning by Justice Chanda before it was adjourned to 24 June.

During the hearing of the case on the day, the judge had said that the 'petitioner has the full right to move for recusal and rest assured, the matter will be decided judicially'.

(With inputs from Live Law and Bar and Bench)

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