“Can’t Choose High Court”: BJP Leader Told On Mamata Banerjee Petition

Suvendu Adhikari had defeated Mamata Banerjee in the 2021 assembly election from Nandigram

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a plea by BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari seeking transfer of an election petition filed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee against his election from Nandigram outside the state, ruling it cannot allow a choice of the high court. 

The Supreme Court said if it transfers the election petition, it would be an expression of lack of faith in the entire high court.

Mr Adhikari had defeated Ms Banerjee in the 2021 assembly election from Nandigram following which the TMC chief had moved the Calcutta High Court with an election petition.

Mr Adhikari, the leader of the opposition in the West Bengal assembly, through his counsel Harish Salve said a high court judge has recused from the case and that the atmosphere within and outside the court is not conducive for hearing.

“Judges have broad shoulders and have power under the law to deal with these situations, if the atmosphere is not conducive for the conduct of the court proceedings,” a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli said.

It allowed Mr Salve to withdraw the transfer petition with liberty to move the high court judge hearing the case, if he had any apprehension about any wrongdoing.

“We cannot allow you a choice of high court. If you have any apprehension, then you can approach the high court judge hearing the case for orderly conduct of the court. The high court judge hearing the case can bring to the notice of the chief justice about there being a non-conducive atmosphere obstructing the court proceedings,” the bench told Mr Salve.

Mr Adhikari had defeated the Trinamool Congress chief by a small margin of 1956 votes.
Mr Adhikari, a former minister and confidant of Ms Banerjee, had sought transfer of the election petition from the Calcutta High Court to any other high court in the country.

Mr Salve said the chief minister had written a letter against the high court judge hearing the case after which an MP of her party tweeted against him and he had to recuse from hearing.

He said several cases were lodged against Mr Adhikari in West Bengal following the polls and, when one of the judges hearing a case against him gave a relief of no coercive action, he was boycotted by the bar and demand was made that the case be taken away from him.

“When the case is listed, there are over 25,000 people surrounding the court and it becomes difficult for my witnesses to be present there. The atmosphere is not at all congenial,” Mr Salve said.

Responding to his contention, the court said, “We should not send a message that we don’t have faith in our high courts. Judges have enough power under law to deal with these situations.” Mr Salve clarified he has not approached the top court against the judges and, in fact, has full faith in them, but was concerned about the atmosphere within and outside the Calcutta High Court during the hearings. He said the chief minister has written a letter against the high court judge and alleged bias, saying during his lawyer days he had appeared for the BJP.

“The judges, because of this case, are themselves at the receiving end of the excesses of the government,” he alleged and added the court should record in the order that he is withdrawing the plea but the Calcutta High Court chief justice would ensure that security is provided.

The bench told Mr Salve it will not record any such things as it would be an acceptance that the atmosphere is not congenial. But, if any of your witnesses has any apprehension, then they can approach the court drawing its attention, the court said.

Justice Kohli said security can be provided to the witnesses, if they approach the judge concerned.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for the chief minister, said there is no such apprehension and that the court should not record any such thing in its order.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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