Alapan CAT order shocks judicial conscience: HC – Times of India

Kolkata News

Kolkata: A Central Administrative Tribunal decision, transferring former Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s petition against the Centre from its Kolkata bench to Delhi, “shocks the judicial conscience… and poses a threat to the (country’s) federal structure”, the Calcutta High Court said on Friday.
A division bench of Justices Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya and Rabindranath Samanta transferred the case back to the CAT’s Kolkata bench and asked it to hear the case “expeditiously”, calling the CAT transfer order an effort to pay “obeisance to the diktat” of the central government.
“The entire modus operandi adopted by the Union of India reeks of mala fides. It is unfortunate that the CAT’s principal bench nurtured (those) efforts, paying obeisance to the diktat of the Union of India,” the 18-page order said, stressing that the Supreme Court and various high courts had repeatedly said the Union government could not be treated as a “favoured litigant”. “Rather, the responsibility of meting out justice and serving the cause of justice is on a much higher pedestal,” the order added.
The CAT transfer order “leaves a bad taste in the mouth due to the mode of operation of a quasi-judicial (if not judicial) authority and also poses a threat to the federal structure as envisioned by the makers of the Constitution”, the bench said.
The Centre’s department of personnel and training initiated proceedings against Bandyopadhay in June following a political controversy over PM Narendra Modi’s review meeting on Cycle Yaas in Kalaikunda, about 130 km from Kolkata. Bandyopadhyay responded, explaining the sequence of events, following which the centre set up a panel to probe the charges against him.
Bandyopadhyay moved CAT’s Kolkata bench against this but the case was transferred to Delhi before a single hearing here. Bandyopadhyay then moved the Calcutta HC against this transfer.
The HC division bench said on Friday that “promptness is appreciated but over-zealousness to cater to the fiat of the government, be it central or state, is not” and found in the CAT order an “inexplicable hot haste of the bench to cater to the pseudo-urgency of the union government”. It also questioned the centre’s “unprecedented restlessness” to complete the inquiry before Bandyopadhyay’s case was taken up by the CAT Kolkata bench.
Bandyopadhyay’s petition prompted three questions, the HC said: whether it (the HC) could hear an order passed by a CAT principal bench based in Delhi; whether the CAT’s Delhi bench had exceeded its powers in acting in a case filed in Kolkata; and whether the case transfer from Kolkata to Delhi was justified.
The incident that led to the entire issue took place in Bengal on May 28, the HC said, adding that many of the following events (including Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s letter to PM Modi) originated in Kolkata. That gave the Calcutta HC “territorial jurisdiction”, the bench said.
The judges also noted that Bandyopadhyay, resident of Kolkata, was given less than 24 hours to respond to the transfer notice. “The extreme alacrity of the CAT bench did not stop there but it went on to hear and dispose of the entire transfer petition the very next day,” the HC said, adding that Bandyopadhyay was not granted “reasonable time to come ready with a comprehensive objection, arguments and appropriate citations”.
The judges then questioned how the CAT’s Delhi bench could “pre-judge” that most witnesses would be from Delhi, which prompted the basis of the transfer order. “Bandyopadhyay’s alleged recalcitrance on May 28, 2021, took place within the territorial jurisdiction of the CAT’s Kolkata bench and the charges against him (followed) the communication from the Bengal CM, which could also be a potentially importance piece of evidence. Other witnesses, if any, would be available in Kalaikunda in Bengal and not in New Delhi,” the bench noted, saying that CAT order “not only violates Bandyopadhyay’s legal right” but also his fundamental right of “equality before law”.
Fox & Mandal, Kolkata, partner Debanjan Mandal, who represented Bandyopadhyay, declined to comment in detail on the HC verdict. “We hope that the judicial and quasi-judicial processes will lead to justice,” he said.