ALCUTTA High Court judge Justice Kaushik Chanda Thursday reserved his order on an application moved by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeking his recusal from hearing the her election petition challenging the results of the Nandigram constituency in the recently held assembly polls.
Appearing for Banerjee, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi contended that Justice Chanda was not just associated with the BJP but had a close, personal, professional and ideological relationship with the party.
Singhvi also pointed out that Banerjee as chief minister had opposed the appointment of Justice Chanda as a permanent judge in the high court and that she didn’t want somebody who was “an active member of the BJP” to decide her election petition.
Justice Chanda retorted saying there was an ongoing media trial even before the issue had come up before the court. Hundreds of tweets had already been posted saying he should recuse. “If I recuse now, I will be giving in to this media trial,” the judge said.
“Individual cases come and go and individuals should look at a longer period of time. With this plethora of materials, your Lordship will only be elevating your stature by recusing from this case”, Singhvi responded.
After hearing arguments, Justice Chanda said he would think over the matter and reserved his order.
In her election petition, Banerjee has asked that the result to be declared void on three grounds:
- Indulgence by Adhikari and his party in corrupt practices including bribery;
Using religion in the election campaign for polarisation; and
- Promoting hatred between the Muslim and Hindu communities.
- She further alleged discrepancies in the counting procedure and form 17C. The role of the Election Commission of India(ECI) is questioned for its decision against her request to recount votes.
“Suvendu Adhikari has indulged in several corrupt practices that have enhanced his winning chances and materially altered Mamata Banerjee’s chances of success in the election,” the petition read.
The petition comes more than a month after Adhikari’s victory in Nandigram by 1956 votes. The victory came as a surprise to many, including many Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders. Mamata chose the same constituency to contest this time that propelled her to power for the first time in 2011.
Banerjee accepted her defeat after the declaration of the result. But the next day, she alleged that the Returning Officer(RO) was threatened by the BJP. She claimed to receive an SMS in which the Returning Officer avoided recounting as he feared for his life.
“I have received an SMS from someone in which the returning officer of Nandigram has written to someone that if he allows recounting then his life would be under threat. ‘I can’t order a recount. My family will be in ruin. I have a little daughter…’,” Banerjee then told the Media.