Nandigram poll result: Calcutta HC reserves verdict on Mamata Banerjee's plea seeking judge's recusal

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday reserved its order on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee's application seeking the recusal of a judge from hearing her petition challenging the election of her BJP rival from Nandigram, Suvendu Adhikari. In her plea, Banerjee apprehended bias because of the judge's links to the saffron party.

Banerjee was present before the court online during the hearing by Justice Kausik Chanda in accordance with his 18 June direction.

Appearing for Banerjee, senior counsel AM Singhvi submitted through video conferencing that the petitioner apprehends bias on the part of the judge in adjudicating the election petition as he was formerly an "active member" of the BJP.

Advocate SN Mookerjee also argued for the TMC supremo. Justice Chanda, whose recusal Banerjee has sought, reserved his judgement after hearing their submissions.

Banerjee has claimed Justice Chanda was an active member of the BJP till his appointment as Additional Solicitor General in 2015, and since the election of a BJP candidate has been challenged, she apprehended bias in adjudication of the election petition.

Quoting Shakespeare, Singhvi submitted: "Honourable judge of this honourable court should be like Caesar's wife - above suspicion."

Justice Chanda said he was never the convenor of BJP's legal cell, as claimed, but had represented the party in many cases before the Calcutta High Court.

He acknowledged he had appeared for the BJP in a 2014 case for granting permission for a rally to be addressed by Amit Shah in front of Victoria House at Esplanade.

The judge wondered whether recusing himself from the case would not mean giving in to a media trial. Justice Chanda also asked why the objections were not raised during the first hearing of the election petition on 18 June and the transfer application submitted to the Acting
Chief Justice on 16 June was not mentioned then.

Banerjee claimed in the recusal application that as Suvendu Adhikari is a member of the BJP and the "Hon'ble Judge was an active member of the BJP, (it) will lead to a situation and perception whereby the Hon'ble Judge adjudicating the said election petition, may be said to be judge in his own cause."

Her counsel had also written to the acting chief justice seeking reassignment of her election petition to another bench.

Banerjee has accused Adhikari, her former confidante-turned-rival, of committing corrupt practices in violation of Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. She has also alleged irregularities were committed in the counting exercise.

According to the result declared by the Election Commission on 2 May, Adhikari had defeated Banerjee by 1956 votes.

She had sought recounting of votes after her defeat by a slender margin but the returning officer turned down the request.