Calcutta, Feb. 19: Trinamul MP and senior lawyer Kalyan Banerjee today fought a contempt case against the food and supplies department and said “total anarchism” prevailed there.
Banerjee, appearing on behalf of 40 people who were denied ration dealerships despite a high court order, said: “This is high-handedness of the state government. It does not bother to carry out court orders.”
Later in the evening, Banerjee said: “I am a professional first and then an MP. There is no bar on me to practise for whoever I choose to. As a lawyer, my prime duty is to defend my client.”
The Trinamul MP also criticised the “head” of the department but did not specify who he meant. Later, he told The Telegraph that his criticism was directed at senior officials of the food department.
“It is said that the department’s head had summoned a senior officer of the food department in north Bengal and had advised him not to carry out the court’s order. How can he act like this? Total anarchism is prevailing in the department,” Banerjee told Justice Aniruddha Bose.
The court then directed the department to appoint the 40 people as dealers within six weeks and asked the food controller, Anil Verma, to file an affidavit explaining why the department had failed to carry out the court order.
According to court officials, the 40 people had moved a writ petition before Calcutta High Court last year against an order of the food and supplies department that rejected the prayer for ration dealership in different places of north Bengal.
In response, the high court passed an order in May directing the department to appoint the 40 people as ration dealers within 10 weeks.
But as the food department failed to carry out the court order within the stipulated period, the 40 people moved a contempt case early this year.
Banerjee had recently declared that he would not fight any legal battle for the state government.
According to Writers’ sources, Mamata, soon after coming to power, had bestowed on Banerjee the responsibility to select persons for appointment in key posts in the judiciary such as the law minister, advocate-general, government pleader and public prosecutor.
But things turned sour when a senior member of the Mamata government managed to convince her that the selections were not proper, which led to the defeat of the government in major cases, including the Singur land return case, a source said.
“Law minister Malay Ghatak was replaced by Chandrima Bhattacharya. As Bhattacharya had an uneasy relationship with Banerjee, he decided to give up the post of advocate-on-record for the state in the Supreme Court and declared that he would not fight any legal battle for the state government,” a senior Trinamul said.
Asked about Banerjee’s decision to fight the contempt case against the government, Trinamul MP Saugata Roy said: “I am not a legal practitioner but common sense says he is an MP and does not hold any government post like the advocate-general or public prosecutor. What he does as a professional is his business largely.”