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Glare on minister defending accused

- Lawyers raise propriety question in Trinamul MLA case

Calcutta, June 24: Left Front MLAs today staged a walkout in the Assembly after the Speaker disallowed them from tabling an adjournment motion demanding discussions on a minister appearing in court to plead for bail for a Trinamul MLA accused of rigging.

Textile minister Shyamapada Mukherjee was one of the lawyers who had moved the bail plea of Sonamukhi MLA Dipali Saha in the Bishnupur sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s court yesterday.

Mukherjee had argued that Saha, accused of intimidating the presiding officer and other polling officials during the Lok Sabha elections and casting false votes, represented a constituency where two lakh people lived and had to do a lot of work for them at a time the House was in session.

Saha, who had been absconding for over a month, was granted bail so that she could attend the Assembly session. The MLA surrendered in court yesterday.

Saha came to the Assembly today but left early. She said tonight that she was “feeling unwell”.

Asked if a minister appearing in court on behalf of an FIR-named person was fair, Mukherjee said: “No law prevents me from appearing as a lawyer on behalf of an FIR-named MLA. I have done nothing wrong.”

Several senior lawyers cited “propriety” while saying the minister should not have moved the bail plea.

“During my legal career, I never heard of a minister appearing in court to plead for an accused person. Since a minister is holding a constitutional post, he should not appear for an accused person. Propriety does not permit it,” former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said tonight.

Ansar Ali Mondal, the chairman of the West Bengal Bar Council, echoed Chatterjee. “Since the case is state versus an FIR-named person and others, a minister should not have appeared in court to pray for bail for the accused,” he said.

Justice Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee said that although there was no law preventing a minister from appearing in court on behalf of an accused, “this goes against professional etiquette and norms of a person holding a constitutional position”.

In the Assembly today, CPM MLA Anisur Rahman, who moved the adjournment motion, said a discussion was necessary on the role of the minister for appearing on behalf of an MLA accused of disrupting the poll process.

When Speaker Biman Banerjee refused to allow the motion, Front legislators rushed to the Well and shouted slogans. Led by Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra, the Left MLAs staged a walkout.