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Chandan Basu's biscuit case out of closet

Calcutta, Nov. 18: A file relating to a case involving Jyoti Basu's son Chandan, which had disappeared from the high court 13 years ago, has suddenly resurfaced. And Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar has put it on the fast track, asking that the matter be concluded as soon as possible.

The case was lodged in 1988 by Chandan Basu as managing director of Eastern Biscuit Company challenging a notification by the Central Excise department asking his company to pay Rs 37.68 lakh in dues as well as fines for non-payment. The company has since ceased to exist.

The last time the case was heard was in 1989, after which the file disappeared mysteriously and the case could not be heard.

On September 16, 1988, Justice Prativa Bonerjee passed an interim order staying the central excise notification. The excise authorities then appealed the division bench of Justice S.C. Sen and Justice U.C. Bannerjee for a stay on the interim order.

In October 1988, the division bench passed an interim order saying the order of Justice Bonerjee would be sustained if the biscuit company pays Rs 50,000 forthwith to the excise department. Among other conditions, the division bench also said the company would have to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 15 lakh in favour of the excise department by November 1988.

Chandan Basu paid Rs 50,000, but failed to deposit the bank guarantee of Rs 15 lakh. This prompted the department to move the court again.

The case shifted to the division bench of then Chief Justice P.D. Desai and Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen.

On September 21, 1989, the division bench vacated the interim order passed by Justice Bonerjee.

But seven days later, on September 28, 1989, the same bench recalled its order and said it was releasing the case from its court on personal grounds.

A few months later, when the case was not reassigned to another bench, Chirantan Dawn, a high court advocate, drew the attention of the court by reminding it that the case was not being heard.

When the matter came up for hearing again, in 1992, it was discovered that the file relating to the case had disappeared. The court registrar then submitted in writing that the file could not be traced. Nothing was heard of the case for many years thereafter.

In 2004, when the Supreme Court alleged an unholy nexus between Jyoti Basu's government and a section of the judiciary while disposing of a case on land distribution in Salt Lake, advocate Arunava Ghosh wrote a letter to then high court Chief Justice A.K. Mathur. It said that following the apex court's remarks, the high court should find out the file rela-ting to Chandan Basu's case 'to maintain dignity of the court'.

Subsequently, Ghosh filed a petition to the division bench of Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Ganguly and alleged that the high court had not responded to his letter.

Today, when the matter came up for hearing, the file, with layers of dust on it, was placed in the court. However, it was not known how the file surfaced.

The prosecution said Chandan Basu's address could not be traced as the 'Eastern Biscuit Company had also closed down'.

The division bench ordered that Chandan Basu's address be traced and the notice of the case be served immediately.

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