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Outcry over minister’s comments

Calcutta, Dec. 3: Calcutta High Court today allowed a lawyer to file a contempt petition against junior agriculture minister Becharam Manna for his comments on some judges yesterday.

Lawyer Kallol Basu told the court: “It is a clear case of contempt and the court should initiate proceedings against Becharam Manna for tarnishing the image of the oldest court of the country.”

The division bench of acting Chief Justice Pratap Roy and Justice Subal Baidya suggested that a formal application will have to be filed for any decision by the court. “We will hear the matter when it comes up for hearing,” the acting chief justice said.

Addressing a rally yesterday, Becharam had said: “Tata and the CPM got together and, with the help of judges loyal to them, defeated us in the Singur case.”

Later in the afternoon, former Calcutta mayor and senior high court advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said he would write to the court seeking suo motu contempt proceedings against the minister.

“I am in Guwahati now. I will return to Calcutta tomorrow and file a written application before Calcutta High Court, demanding a suo motu contempt case against Becharam Manna for such derogatory comments at a public meeting,” Bhattacharya said.

Other lawyers demanded that the minister apologise before the court.

“We are shocked. As a legal practitioner, I condemn the minister. He should beg for apology before the court,” advocate Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee said.

Becharam this evening accused the media of “distorting my comments”.

“I have not said anything against the judiciary for which I may be held in contempt of court,” he told reporters outside Writers’ Buildings.

Told that his speech had been beamed live on TV, the minister said: “People will get to know what I have tried to say if they watch the footage properly.”

Industries minister Partha Chatterjee today tried to control the damage. “We have respect for the law. In the high court, we won the first round (of the Singur case) but lost in the second. Whatever we have to say, we will say in the Supreme Court,” Chatterjee said.

He added: “We want Singur farmers to get back their land as early as possible.”

Asked if he was aware of Becharam’s comments on the judiciary, Chatterjee said: “I have read it in newspapers. But I cannot comment on this until I talk to him. I will talk to him at the earliest.”

CPM state secretary Biman Bose said the Mamata Banerjee government should start a “crash course” for its ministers as they “don’t seem to have any knowledge about Constitutional provisions and the law”.

“Becharam Manna’s remarks against the judiciary reflect his ignorance of the Constitution... of the law and what not. His comments are juvenile and irresponsible. The state government should start a crash course for its ministers on what are the provisions of the Constitution,” Bose said.

Rabi to skip meet

Asked about Becharam’s comments, dissident minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya said: “I feel it is not proper for someone to comment on matters that are sub-judice.”

Bhattacharya said he would not attend a meeting tomorrow on paddy procurement at the office of the subdivisional officer of Chandernagore.

“I have received an invitation as an MLA but I will not attend the meeting as I have already decided to resign,” Bhattacharya said.