The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court glare on VIP comments

Calcutta, Oct. 14: Calcutta High Court has sought an explanation from the state government on remarks made by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and a cabinet colleague on the judiciary.

Justice Altamas Kabir, the senior judge of the division bench hearing a public interest petition on the pathetic condition of roads, asked the government to place the explanation before the court by 10.30 am on Friday. Justice Asit Kumar Bishi is the other member of the bench.

'Before I take up the public interest litigation for hearing, I would like to know how could a chief minister or his cabinet colleagues make statements in disregard of the honour and prestige of the court,' Justice Kabir said, taking suo motu cognisance of the ministers' statements reported in the media.

In a written speech at a symposium on Monday, the chief minister had said that the judiciary is 'overstepping its jurisdiction at times and intruding into the executive and legislative domains'.

Bhattacharjee did not refer to any specific case. But his colleague and urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, who had been hauled up by the bench for his failure to attend a hearing, made several critical remarks.

Today, Justice Kabir entered the courtroom holding The Telegraph Metro dated October 13, which carried the statements of the ministers.

The judge then sent for advocate-general Balai Ray, saying he would start the hearing only after obtaining a satisfactory explanation from the government.

As directed by Justice Kabir, Ray presented himself before the court a little after 2 pm. The judge gave him the copy of the newspaper to read and said: 'You are here not only to look after the interests of the government. As leader of the bar, it is also your responsibility to rise in defence of the honour of the judiciary.'

After reading the report, Ray informed the judge that the chief minister did not make any remark against the court but Bhattacharya might have made a few comments at a news conference. 'I am not sure about what all he said, but if he indeed made an anti-court remark, I would only say he should not have done it,' the advocate-general said.

The court then asked Ray to submit the explanation tomorrow, adding that 'stern action' would be taken against anyone seen to be denigrating the prestige and honour of the judiciary.

At Writers' Buildings, the chief minister declined comment while Bhattacharya said there was no question of disrespecting the court or a judge.

'The court wanted us to repair the roads. We have responded by making arrangements. We hope the matter will end now. My comments, as reported, were meant not against any particular judge or judgment but to highlight the matter of judicial intervention in executive matters,' Bhattacharya said.

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