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Split verdict on Paul, probe order stayed

Calcutta, Aug. 13: Two judges of a Calcutta High Court division bench today differed on their decisions in the appeal moved by the state government against an order to probe the “rape-and-shoot” speech by Trinamul MP Tapas Paul.

The senior judge, Justice Girish Gupta, stayed the single-bench order. But the other judge, Justice Tapobrata Chakrabarti, dismissed the appeal moved by the state.

According to rules, the appeal will now be sent to Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, who will either hear the case herself or assign it to a third judge.

“The verdict given by the third judge or the chief justice will be considered as the verdict of the higher bench and, if any of the parties then wants to challenge the judgment, they will have to appeal to the Supreme Court,” a senior court official said.

The ruling delivered by Justice Dipankar Dutta, who had ordered a CID probe into the speech and said the court would monitor the inquiry, has been stayed for three weeks.

Delivering his judgment today, Justice Gupta said: “The order passed by the trial judge is stayed and the state is directed to act on the basis of law on this issue. This is my order and my brother judge will deliver a separate judgment in this case.”

Justice Chakrabarti then read out: “I am disagreeing with my senior judge and dismissing the petition moved by the state in the matter.”

Veteran lawyer Gitanath Ganguly later said in response to a question from this newspaper: “Difference of opinion between two judges of a division bench is not a new phenomenon. In many cases, judges of a division bench differ while delivering their judgments.”

On July 28, Justice Dutta, in response to a petition filed by a Nadia-based social activist, had directed Nakashipara police to register a case against Paul for his speech.

Justice Dutta had also directed the state government to hand over the case to the CID and announced that the court would monitor the probe.

The state and Paul had then moved the division bench, claiming that the speech could not be considered a cognisable offence.

The division bench had ended its hearing of the appeal on August 2 and announced that it would deliver its verdict on August 13.