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Morality vs legality in HC

Calcutta, July 31: Advocate Kalyan Banerjee today told a Calcutta High Court division bench that he had condemned the speech of fellow parliamentarian Tapas Paul on moral grounds but was contesting Justice Dipankar Dutta’s order of a CID probe into the Krishnagar MP’s speech to perform his legal duty.

The division bench of Justices Girish Gupta and Tapobrata Chakrabarty today stayed till Monday Justice Dutta’s order. During the hearing, Justice Gupta said: “It has been noticed that the trial judge (Justice Dutta) had made excesses while making some observations in his interim order.”

When Justice Chakrabarty today asked advocate Banerjee about his views on Paul’s comments, the lawyer replied: “If this court wants to know from me about my view on the issue (Paul’s rape-and-shoot speech), I will ask it to see the comments I posted on my Facebook account on July 1. Those who insult women are animals.”

The lawyer, who is also a Trinamul MP, had posted on his Facebook page on July 1, a day after Paul’s comments were aired in the media: “To respect women is civilization. Those who cannot respect women is (sic) animal.”

Although advocate Banerjee did not mention any name in the post, many on his friend list had commented on it and appreciated what they perceived as his condemnation of Paul’s speech.

Justice Chakrabarty, the junior judge on the division bench, asked Banerjee in court today: “We all know you for more than 20 years. You are in the legal profession for so many years. As an MP, what are your views on this issue (hate speech)?”

Banerjee replied: “Can this court ask me this question? I am appearing here as a senior counsel and not as an MP.”

Justice Chakrabarty insisted, following which Banerjee referred to his Facebook post. “But the court is like a temple for me. I strongly believe that the judiciary of our country has strengthened our democracy. So, I consider it my legal duty to defend my client. Once I have been entrusted the job to defend Paul, I am bound to perform my legal duty,” the advocate said.

Although Banerjee said his job was to defend Paul, the advocate has moved the appeal on behalf of the state government. The move by the government to contest Justice Dutta’s order has drawn sharp criticism from the CPM.

After the daylong hearing, the division bench extended the stay on the execution of Justice Dutta’s order till Monday and decided to resume the hearing of the government’s and Paul’s appeals tomorrow morning. Banerjee is expected to conclude his arguments tomorrow, following which Paul’s counsel will make his submission.

Petitioner Biplab Chowdhury’s counsel Aniruddha Chatterjee finished his submission today, during which he said Paul’s comments were cognisable and Justice Dutta’s court had done the right thing by ordering a CID probe.

Referring to Justice Dutta’s order, Justice Gupta observed: “E toh mosha marte kaman daga hoye gache (a tank has been used to kill a mosquito).”

Chatterjee replied: “Je she mosha noi, encephalitis er mosha (the mosquito is not a common one. It is carrying the encephalitis virus).”

Referring to the demand by the state government to expunge certain observations from Justice Dutta’s order, especially those on the law-and-order situation in the state, Chatterjee said: “I don’t bother about the observations but my client wants a free and fair probe.”