SC transfers proceedings to itself after Calcutta HC spat | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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SC transfers proceedings to itself after Calcutta HC spat

By, New Delhi
Jan 30, 2024 06:45 AM IST

The top court also asked the West Bengal government to submit an affidavit to show the status of the probe conducted so far into the alleged scam

The Supreme Court on Monday transferred to itself all proceedings in a case involving the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the West Bengal government that led to an unprecedented confrontation between the two benches of the Calcutta high court last week.

Listing the matter after three weeks, the Supreme Court extended its January 27 order that had put in abeyance the direction issued by the single judge bench of justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay for an investigation by CBI into an alleged fake caste certificate scam (HT Archive)
Listing the matter after three weeks, the Supreme Court extended its January 27 order that had put in abeyance the direction issued by the single judge bench of justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay for an investigation by CBI into an alleged fake caste certificate scam (HT Archive)

Underlining that any order or remarks of the top court must not impinge on the dignity of the high court or its judges, a five-judge bench, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, directed that the petitions pending before the single judge bench as well as the division bench in the Calcutta high court shall stand transferred to the Supreme Court for further consideration.

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“We are dealing with a high court – a constitutional court. Casting aspersions on either the single judge or the judge leading the division bench will not be appropriate. We will deal with it in a different way here. Anything that we see here should not impinge on the dignity of the high court,” said the bench, which also comprised the four most senior judges – justices Sanjiv Khanna, Bhushan R Gavai, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose.

READ | Judge vs judge matter: Supreme Court stays all proceedings before Calcutta high court

Listing the matter after three weeks, the Supreme Court extended its January 27 order that had put in abeyance the direction issued by the single judge bench of justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay for an investigation by CBI into an alleged fake caste certificate scam. Justice Gangopadhyay had ordered a CBI probe on January 25 despite the division bench led by justice Soumen Sen annulling the probe order a day ago.

The top court, while hearing the proceedings initiated on its own motion (suo motu), also asked the West Bengal government to submit an affidavit to show the status of the probe conducted so far by the state into the alleged scam and the extent of malaise in admission of students at medical colleges using fake caste certificates.

“You file your affidavit to show what the extent of fake certificates is...we can then take the next step accordingly,” the bench told senior counsel Kapil Sibal, Huzefa Ahmadi and Sunil Fernandes – all appearing for the West Bengal government.

READ | Judge vs judge matter: Supreme Court transfers to itself case from Calcutta HC

Responding, Sibal said that the state police have registered four first information reports (FIRs), and 14 fake certificates have been cancelled so far.

At this point, senior counsel Maninder Singh intervened to inform the bench that he was appearing for a group representing Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students. “Forty out of 52 certificates have been found to be fake. That’s the extent of the scam,” said Singh. The court allowed Singh to move an impleadment plea in the matter.

Sibal, on his part, complained that justice Gangopadhyay could continue to take up similar matters. “He will do the same thing in future too. He (judge) is attending rallies...What should be done?” he said.

Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi also stepped in on behalf of TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, who had filed an application bringing to the court’s notice some contentious remarks passed by the single judge in question

“Earlier milords took a lenient view and reassigned the case. Even after that the single judge kept issuing similar orders and remarks. What this court did the last time was misconstrued as this court’s weakness. He has been giving interviews even after that. And matters go to him,” rued Singhvi.

The bench replied that the powers of assignment of cases lies with the chief justice of the high court. “Let’s not arrogate or take upon the power of the chief justice. We are sure the chief justice is taking stock of everything,” it added.

In April 2023, Banerjee moved the Supreme Court against a TV interview given by justice Gangopadhyay in which the judge made certain contentious remarks against the TMC leader. At the time, the top court noted that judges have no business to be giving interviews on matters pending before them as it directed reassignment of a bunch of politically sensitive cases in the state from justice Gangopadhyay to some other bench in the high court.

On January 24 and 25, the two benches of the high court passed contradictory orders on a petition alleging corruption in admission of students at medical colleges using fake caste certificates, with the larger bench -- of justices Senand Uday Kumar -- on Thursday finally declaring justice Gangopadhyay’s orders void ab initio (legally void from the start) and quashing an FIR that CBI had lodged as per his directive.

In a special sitting on Saturday, the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court halted all proceedings before the two benches in the high court in the wake of the judicial drama left the state government and CBI in a tizzy over contradictory orders and saw justice Gangopadhyay hurling allegations of political influence at justice Sen.

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