All that Justice Amitava Lala had to say on Saturday was: “No comments.” But the open criticism of a the high court judgment and the personal attack on the judge by CPM politburo member Biman Bose faced plenty of flak from legal circles.
Leading the way was Justice B.P. Bannerjee, a former high court judge. When asked to comment, Justice Bannerjee told The Telegraph: “This is a clear case of criminal contempt. No one has the right to criticise a judge and his judgment publicly. Political leaders who have done this should be charged with contempt, for tarnishing the image of the judiciary.”
Justice Bannerjee said that any judgment could be challenged in a higher judicial forum. “Politicians defying Justice Lala’s order should seek a revision from a division bench instead of making the matter public and hitting the streets.”
Bannerjee came down heavily on Bose — without naming him — for his “personal attack” on Justice Lala. “This is not fair. A political leader should have a sense of honour. I do not think the way a political party has resorted to an attack on the judge can be justified.” The faith of the common people in the judiciary is rising, he went on, as corrupt politicians are not being spared in the court of law.
Another sitting judge of Calcutta High Court, who did not wish to be named, also referred to the outburst of “a CPM leader” as criminal contempt. “How can he malign the court by criticising the judgment publicly' The attack on the judge is a subject of penal action.”
The judge in question, he added, could issue a suo motu contempt notice against the individual making a personal attack on him or his judgment in a public place. “It has almost become a practice among some politicians to criticise court orders and judges publicly. Unless the court takes serious note of this and initiates action against the offenders, the law of the land will be weakened.”
Another former judge of the city civil court said the political leader who had criticised the judge and the judgment was not a first-time offender on this score. Without naming Bose, the judge said: “This leader had earlier commented that a high court judgment could be won with a briefcase full of money. When a contempt case was initiated, a high court judge sentenced him to two years’ rigorous imprisonment or a fine of Rs 2,000, he had paid up to avoid arrest.”