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Minister Partha Chatterjee’s Plea For Expunging ‘Adverse’ Remarks In HC’s 24 July Judgment Rejected: In Calcutta High Court

The Calcutta High Court rejected an application moved by West Bengal Commerce and Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee to expunge certain ‘adverse’ remarks made by the High court in its 24 July Order wherein the Enforcement Directorate was direcetd to shift him to AIIMS, Bhubaneswar from state-run SSKM hospital in Kolkata.

In a special hearing conducted on Sunday (July 24), the bench of Honourable Justice Bibek Chaudhuri had ordered ED to take him to AIIMS as it had noted that the Court’s experience with regards to the role of doctors attached to the SSKM hospital in Kolkata (where Minister Chaterjee was admitted) was not satisfactory in the case of Enforcement Directorate vs Partha Chatterjee (CRR 2665 of 2022).

It should be noted that the Enforcement Directorate detained the West Bengal minister early on July 24 in connection with its investigation into alleged irregularities in the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education’s appointment of teaching staff in government-sponsored and -aided schools based on the recommendations of the West Bengal School Service Commission.

Facts of the case:

Basically, the minister claimed of being ill and requested immediate medical attention on July 24, at which point the Enforcement Directorate filed a petition against the concerned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s orders allowing him to get treatment at Kolkata’s SSKM Superspeciality Hospital.

The lower court had denied the minister’s request for release, and he was remanded to the Enforcement Directorate’s custody until July 25.

Court’s Findings:

The Court’s ruling further stated the following points and ordered ED to send him to AIIMS, Bhuvaneshwar:

“However, as regular people, our experiences with the S.S.K.M. Super Specialty Hospital’s doctors have not been positive. More than one high-ranking political figures from the ruling party have recently been detained or ordered to appear before the investigating authority for questioning, but they were able to evade questioning by the investigating agency by seeking refuge at the aforementioned hospital. They were released from S.S.K.M. Super Speciality Hospital after learning that the Investigating Agency would not be able to question suspects with significant political backgrounds who were associated with the dominant political party. On the basis of the medical report produced by the mentioned hospital authority, they evaded even appearing in court. “, the Court underscored.

The Court further observed that Chatterjee emanates enormous power as the senior-most Cabinet Minister in the State of West Bengal and that it is thus not impossible that he would seek refuge under the guise of a major illness and receive medical attention to dodge interrogation.

The Court went on to say that this would lead to a miscarriage of justice, saying, ” “It wouldn’t be impossible for the accused, with the help of other political executives, to seek refuge under the guise of serious illness and medical treatment to evade interrogation given that he is the senior-most Cabinet Minister in the State of West Bengal and holds a position of immense power and authority. If this occurs, thousands of deserving candidates whose futures were sacrificed in favor of money will condemn the Lady Justice with their tears.”

The Court had highlighted that in the recent past, a number of high-ranking TMC party leaders had sought refuge at the hospital in order to avoid questioning by investigating authorities.

Now, on July 25, Chatterjee filed a petition with the High Court asking that the Court strike the following statement from the judgment’s final paragraph on page 9:

“It would not be impossible for the accused, with the help of other political executives, to seek refuge under the guise of serious illness and medical treatment to evade interrogation given this background and the fact that the accused is the senior-most Cabinet Minister in the State of West Bengal and holds a position of immense power and responsibility. If this occurs, thousands of deserving candidates whose futures were sacrificed in favor of money will curse the Lady Justice with their tears.” [Remark made in the Calcutta High Court order from July 24]

Now, it was argued before the court today that if this observation is allowed to stand, it will negatively affect the outcome of the accused’s application for bail; however, the court stated that it was unable to grant the request due to a specific provision in Section 362 of the Code of Criminal Procedure [Court not to after judgment].

The Court added that it made the aforementioned observation while taking into account all of the relevant facts and circumstances when it rendered its decision or order on July 24, 2022. The Court concluded that there is no need to alter or adjust its observation.

Before issuing the order, the Court noted that the applicant had averred that the applicant had not been given the opportunity to file an affidavit in opposition in the instant case.

But the Court noted that this allegation was patently incorrect, underlining “It is especially noted that at the time of hearing the revisional application on July 24, 2022, no such petition was made on behalf of the opposing party. The learned attorney for the opposing party participated in the revisionary application hearing, and all of his arguments were included in the judgment or order dated July 24, 2022. As a result, it is noted that the applicant/opposite party’s averment in paragraph 7 of the instant application is obviously incorrect.”

The application submitted on behalf of the opposing party was thus dismissed.

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Judgement Reviewed By Manju Molakalapalli.

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