New Delhi: A sitting lady judge of the Calcutta High Court is making news for all the right reasons—for standing up to the intimidation she faced from a senior leader of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in court and for giving it back in good measure to the TMC leader, who is also a Member of Parliament. The lawyer MP, Kalyan Banerjee had launched a tirade in court, raising questions on how that particular judge, Justice Samapti Chatterjee, had been appointed and had gone to the extent of alleging corruption in the judiciary over appointments.
On Wednesday, Justice Chatterjee was hearing a case related to the legality of the no-confidence motion against Sabyasachi Dutta, the Mayor of Bidhannagar, which is a Kolkata suburb. During the course of the court proceeding she referred to a similar situation in Bongaon municipality—which is around 80-90 km from Kolkata—and criticised the ruling TMC for not letting Bharatiya Janata Party councillors take part in voting in Bongaon municipality despite the court expressly ordering that free and fair polls should be ensured by the state administration after a no-confidence motion was introduced in the council.
After the judge criticised the role of TMC in not letting the elections take place, lawyer and TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee started questioning the judge’s integrity and honesty.
During the course of the heated argument, Kalyan Banerjee told the judge, “I know how people become judges. You don’t know the ABCD of law.” “BJP had spent more than Rs 20 lakh in the Bar election and even judges had compromised… Many judges have got land in Salt Lake; I know everything. Should I name them?” he added.
However, rather than getting intimidated, Justice Samapti Chatterjee responded strongly to the allegations levelled by the TMC MP. “All through my life, I have worked with honesty. Nobody can question my recruitment. I have also seen some people getting important posts in the High Court after working for just 10 years. Whose property has increased and in what way, we also know that. Somebody wants to give, somebody wants to take. This giving and taking is the cut money concept,” she said before leaving for her chamber. After this, Kalyan Banerjee apologised to the judge.
The term “cut money” has entered the popular discourse in Bengal ever since Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee admitted in public that her party men and women were taking “cut money” or commission, from common people from different schemes.
Justice Chatterjee’s forceful response came as a pleasant surprise to those present in court. A young lawyer who was present there, said, “We were not expecting that someone would stand up against these TMC leaders, but the way Justice Chatterjee gave it back to the TMC leader is a positive development as TMC leaders feel that they are above the judiciary.”
Similar sentiments were shared by a journalist who was present in the court. “It was totally unexpected. TMC leaders are rarely confronted by anyone in Kolkata. What the judge did was absolutely necessary as the TMC leader was casting unfounded aspersions on her,” said the journalist who works for an English newspaper.
Justice Samapti Chatterjee, 60, comes from a family of lawyers. She did her LLB from Calcutta University after which she practised in Calcutta High Court for 26 years. After this she was elevated to the Bench of the High Court at Calcutta as an Additional Judge on 30 October 2013. She was appointed as a permanent judge of the Calcutta High Court on 14 March 2016.
Earlier on Wednesday, Justice Chatterjee had slammed both the West Bengal government and the TMC after the BJP had reached the court following incidents of violence and disobedience of the High Court’s order by the local police and the administration of Bongaon sub-division.
Justice Chatterjee, while hearing the Bongaon municipality case, had said, “Whatever has happened in Bongaon related to the trust vote is unfortunate.”
She had further said that the court’s order was not complied with by the local police and the administration. “Two councillors were denied entry into the meeting and the police did not do anything. And all this happened with the indulgence of the chairman and his supporters. And this happened with the encouragement of the ruling party while the police just observed everything as a mere spectator,” Justice Samapti Chatterjee had said while hearing the petition from the councillors of the BJP on Wednesday.
The trust vote of the Bongaon municipality was supposed to take place on Tuesday according to the directive of the High Court. The trust vote was necessitated after 11 municipal councillors from the Bongaon municipality defected to the BJP last month and brought a no-confidence motion against the TMC chairman.
The Calcutta High Court judge was irked by incidents of violence that followed on Tuesday while the trust vote was supposed to take place in the Bongaon municipality under the directive of the same court.