Calcutta HC judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay to resign on Tuesday, says will join politics | Kolkata - Hindustan Times

Calcutta HC judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay to resign on Tuesday, says will join politics

Mar 03, 2024 07:52 PM IST

Calcutta high court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay said he may join any of the Left parties, Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party and even contest the coming Lok Sabha elections

Calcutta high court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay, who is in the crosshairs of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) for ordering federal agencies to probe at least 14 cases in the state, on Sunday told a Bengali news channel that he will resign from service on Tuesday and join politics.

Calcutta high court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay. (File)
Calcutta high court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay. (File)

“My soul tells me that my tenure as a judge is over, and it is time to enter a bigger sphere and serve people. I will put in my papers on Tuesday,” justice Gangopadhyay told ABP Ananda.

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He said he may join any of the Left parties, Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and even contest the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Though the judge did not specify his choice, a senior state BJP leader told HT that he is likely to join the party next week.

Sixty-two-year-old Gangopadhay, who joined the high court as an additional judge in 2018 and was made a permanent judge in July 2020, is scheduled to retire after three months. He was a West Bengal Civil Service officer but quit his job around a decade ago to become a lawyer.

Justice Gangopadhyay said: “People in the ruling party made insulting and sarcastic comments against me for passing several judgements. They even dared me to quit my chair and face them. Some men in black coats (apparently pointing at lawyers) acted like agents and targeted me. I have finally made up my mind. The ruling party has brought me here today. I congratulate them.”

In May 2022, justice Gangopadhyay ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the appointment of non-teaching staff (Group C and D) and teaching staff by the West Bengal School Service Commission and West Bengal Board of Secondary Education between 2014 and 2021. The appointees allegedly paid bribes in the range of 5-15 lakh to get jobs after failing the selection tests.

Initiating a parallel probe, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested education minister Partha Chatterjee and his close aide Arpita Mukherjee in July 2022. In its charge sheet, ED said it traced cash, jewellery and immovable property worth 103.10 crore linked to the duo. Around a dozen TMC leaders and government officials were subsequently arrested.

In April 2023, the judge ordered CBI to probe a suspected recruitment scam in civic bodies across Bengal. Both CBI and ED have told the Supreme Court that the two scams are related.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, his wife and his parents are all suspects in the school recruitment scam.

On January 8 this year, the judge told the media outside court that the source of Abhishek Banerjee’s properties should be probed.

“Can Abhishek Banerjee file an affidavit with details of his income and assets?” the judge told the same news channel.

The Bengal government and Abhishek Banerjee moved the Supreme Court challenging various orders passed by justice Gangopadhyay. Some Supreme Court orders went in favour of the petitioners.

In a rare incident earlier this year, the high court witnessed a conflict between the bench of justice Gangopadhyay and the division bench of justices Soumen Sen and Uday Kumar in an alleged corruption in admission of students at medical colleges. Both benches passed back-to-back orders, which challenged each other, over January 24 and 25.

Taking suo motu cognisance, a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by chief justice D Y Chandrachud transferred the case to itself.

On Sunday, justice Gangopadhyay stuck to his stand on corruption but did not name any party or individual.

“There are many more corruptions in various state government departments that have not come to light. We have read about the Maurya empire in history books. Right now, we are witnessing the Chaurya empire (rule of thieves) in Bengal. People have suffered during the ruling party’s regime,” he said.

Amid speculations that the BJP may field him from a seat in Kolkata or East Midnapore district, the judge also held a press conference late on Sunday afternoon.

“I will not hear any case tomorrow and send my resignation to the President of India on Tuesday. It will come into effect immediately as per provisions of the Constitution. I will reply all your questions below the statue of freedom fighter Surya Sen at the high court building at 1.30 pm on Tuesday,” he said.

Retired Supreme Court judge Asok Kumar Ganguly said: “Any sitting high court judge can send his resignation directly to the President and it comes into effect under Article 217 (1) (a) of the Constitution. It is his personal decision.”

Bengal BJP leaders welcomed the judge’s decision but reacted cautiously.

BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said: “Justice Gangopadhyay is an eminent and honest personality. People like him should join politics. The BJP should be his natural choice since we have taken the head on. It is up to him to decide whether he will join the BJP or the CPI(M). If he joins a party that is ideologically opposed to us, then we will counter him ideologically. But we will still respect him.”

TMC leader Kunal Ghosh, who dared Gangopadhyay to join politics on January 9 this year and challenged him to contest the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha seat against TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, the sitting MP, welcomed the judge’s decision with a rider.

“Best wishes for your new innings. Whichever party you join, your decision will raise questions on the judgements you passed and statements you made. It will be proved that your actions were anti-TMC. Moreover, the party you join will have people facing corruption charges. Will you be able to accept that?” Ghosh wrote on X.

Although Gangopadhyay once called CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member and eminent lawyer Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya his “teacher” in the legal profession and was even seen going through Marxist literature at the Kolkata International Book Fair last year, CPI(M) leaders apparently maintained their distance from the issue.

“His decision has taken me by surprise. He can always join politics but neither the TMC nor the BJP can be the right platform given his stand against corruption. He will lose his credibility and image if he joins either of these camps,” Bhattacharya said.

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