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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 April 2024

Calcutta High Court’s Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay to resign, may join politics

'I shall tender my resignation on Tuesday morning and send it to the President of India with copies to the chief justice of Calcutta High Court and the Chief Justice of India'

Tapas Ghosh Calcutta Published 04.03.24, 05:29 AM
Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay

Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay File Photo

Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of Calcutta High Court on Sunday said he would resign on March 5, sparking speculation that he might join politics after hanging up his boots.

The judge would have been up for retirement in August this year.

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"I shall tender my resignation on Tuesday morning and send it to the President of India with copies to the chief justice of Calcutta High Court and the Chief Justice of India,” he said at a brief news conference at his home.

“Thereafter I shall hold a press meet at 1.30pm beneath the statue of Masterda (Surya Sen), where I will announce the reason for my resignation and also my future plans."

Justice Gangopadhyay had been appointed additional judge of the high court on May 2, 2018, and elevated to permanent judge on July 30, 2020.

His announcement about his resignation comes within four days of leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari’s claim that a “big shot” would join the BJP on March 7. Adhikari’s remark had set off speculation that he was referring to the high court judge.

Adhikari was not available for comment on Justice Gangopadhyay’s announcement of his impending resignation.

Asked whether he was joining the BJP, the judge offered a cryptic reply.

“March 7 will come after March 5, which means Tuesday, the day I will send my resignation to the President of India,” he said.

“The media has always been by my side during my fight against corruption and I am indebted to all of you for that.... I must inform the media about my future plans, but not before Tuesday.”

Justice Gangopadhyay has been one of the most talked about judges of the high court for a variety of reasons, from his direct tussle with brother judges to his decision to give an interview to a news channel. Several of his judgments and comments in open court, most of which went against the state government, had generated political debate.

His directive to the CBI to probe alleged scams in the recruitment of schoolteachers and civic staff had embarrassed the ruling Trinamul. The 14 probes the central agency is carrying out into these two matters have landed a high-profile minister and at least four Trinamul MLAs behind bars.

Some of the comments Justice Gangopadhyay had made during the hearings or while passing orders were perceived as adverse remarks about Trinamul leaders, including the party’s all-India general secretary Abhishek Bannerjee and former spokesperson Kunal Ghosh.

While the Opposition parties lapped up the orders and comments and used them to sharpen their attacks on the ruling party, several Trinamul leaders openly attacked the judge.

“Justice Gangopadhyay should resign as judge and join the BJP to fight Trinamul politically,” Ghosh had said. He had suggested that the judge contest against Abhishek from Diamond Harbour after resigning.

When Justice Gangopadhyay was asked on Sunday whether he would accept Ghosh’s challenge, he replied: “Whatever I have to say, I will say only after tendering my resignation formally. Right now, I can only say (that) I have spoken to Kunal Ghosh personally. He is a very nice person.”

While the judge was restrained in his comments during the news conference, the Bengali news channel ABP Ananda carried an interview with him where he said he might join any of the Left parties, the Congress or the BJP. He said he might even contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

In the same interview, he also referred to “insulting and sarcastic comments” made by Trinamul functionaries before adding that the ruling party had “brought him here”.

Ghosh welcomed the judge’s decision saying the entry of “distinguished people from other vocations” would enrich politics, but several Trinamul activists went after him on social media alleging his switch had exposed him.

Multiple sources in the BJP said they were sure about Justice Gangopadhyay joining the saffron camp on March 7. They said he would be nominated as BJP candidate for Tamluk or Diamond Harbour.

Some high court lawyers, however, refused to rule out the judge joining the Left.

“Justice Gangopadhyay has always had a very cordial relationship with senior advocate and CPM leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya. He has been seen in public programmes with Bhattacharyya and other CPM leaders like Kanti Ganguly,” a lawyer said.

“A section in the CPM wants him fielded from one of the constituencies in Calcutta.”

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