On a day a five-judge division bench of the Calcutta high court granted interim bail to four politicians, including two state ministers, in connection with the Narada cash-for-favours case investigated by the CBI, surfaced a letter from a judge sharply criticizing the role of the court in dealing with the case.
In this letter, dated May 24 and addressed to the acting chief justice of Calcutta high court, Rajesh Bindal, and other judges, justice Arindam Sinha, who has been part of the Narada hearing right from the beginning, criticised the manner in which the court entertained the CBI’s plea for staying the lower court’s ruling that granted bail to the arrested politicians.
The arrested ministers are Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, while Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former minister Sovan Chatterjee were also arrested.
Earlier, the high court’s two-judge division bench, after staying the lower court’s ruling, had sent the arrested persons to house arrest. Then, a five-judge division bench was formed to hear the matter. Meanwhile, the CBI had approached the supreme court but the apex court refused to meddle until the high court division bench’s verdict came.
“Our conduct is unbecoming of the majesty the high court commands. We have been reduced to a mockery,” justice Sinha wrote.
Sinha wrote that while a two-member division bench of the court took up the CBI’s plea on May 17 treating it as a writ petition, the rules said that the case should have been heard by a single-judge bench and that it should not have been treated as a writ petition either. He questioned the high court’s stay on the lower court’s bail order, saying that the CBI’s application was not supported by an affidavit.
He criticized the way the division bench was not available the next day and did not entrust another bench to hear the matter. “The public were presented with the situation of the high court having interfered with the liberty of their elected representatives and then it would not be available for that day to adjudicate on their liberty,” the letter said.
He also said that the two-judge division bench had a difference of opinion, with one favouring the granting of interim bail and the other not, but the procedures for such situations were not followed.
In case of difference within a bench, a third judge’s opinion is usually taken, Sinha wrote, adding that it had not been done in this case.
Meanwhile, the five-judge division bench constituted on May 21 granted interim bail to the four politicians on personal bond of Rs 2 lakh each. They would not be allowed to speak on the sub-judice matter before the media.
The high court will continue to hear the CBI’s plea for transferring the Narada case outside the state.