The Calcutta High Court on Thursday began hearing a plea filed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee challenging the Assembly election results in Nandigram. A bench of Justice Kausik Chanda began hearing the case at 11 am. However, with a recusal application pending, allegations of 'bias' became the focus of the hearing.
Earlier, Banerjee had written to Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal requesting a reassignment. Reportedly, the reason for the same was that Justice Chanda was an active member of the BJP before becoming a judge. On Thursday, as the hearing began, Dr. Singhvi appearing for Banerjee insisted that with the application pending, the ball was now in the judge's court.
While the matter was slated to be heard last week, Singhvi said that the issue had not been raised on June 18 as they were yet to file a formal application. Reports quoted Justice Chandra to say that the application is pending before the Chief Justice who is the master of the Roster.
"If you feel that the request is reasonable, you my recuse. If you feel that the pleadings in our application are overridden, waived or acquiesced, you may proceed," an update by Live Law quoted Singhvi as saying.
According to Singhvi, they had expected the matter to be listed before Justice Sabyasachi Bhattarcharya. It was only on June 16th that they discovered that the matter had been assigned Justice Chandra.
He cited various instances to contend that the judge had close, personal, professional, pecuniary and ideological relationship with the BJP. He noted that Justice Chandra was head of Legal Cell of BJP and had also appeared on behalf of the party in various cases.
The fiercely contested West Bengal polls had seen the TMC supremo take on her former top lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari. Initial reports had indicated a victory for the Chief Minister. But even as congratulatory messages poured in from various quarters, a clarification was issued. The Election Commission declared that BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari had won the fiercely contested seat for a second term.
"I received an SMS from someone wherein Returning Officer of Nandigram has written to someone if he allows recounting then his life would be under threat. For four hours the server was down. Governor also congratulated me. Suddenly everything changed. I will move court," Banerjee had assured earlier.
The Trinamool Congress had also written to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), West Bengal seeking "immediate re-counting of votes and postal ballots" in the Nandigram constituency. Recounting was however refused for reasons unknown.
Despite Banerjee losing the seat to Adhikari, the TMC registered a landslide victory in polls winning 213 seats in the 294-member West Bengal assembly. The BJP emerged as the second-largest party with 77 seats.