The Calcutta high court allowed a prominent Bengali news channel to telecast an interview of a sitting judge of the court on Monday, setting aside a public interest petition that sought to stop the broadcast.
The channel interviewed justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay, who has drawn public attention for ordering the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into illegal appointment of non-teaching staff (Group C and D) and teaching staff by the West Bengal Central School Service Commission and West Bengal Board of Secondary Education.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is conducting a parallel probe, arrested former education minister Partha Chatterjee on July 23. He is now in the custody of the CBI, which has arrested four senior education department officials, including the vice-chancellor of North Bengal University.
In his writ petition, Sk Saidullah, a citizen, stated that “such an interview is contrary to the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life and the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, therefore, immediate restrain order should be issued to prohibit the respondent No. 2 (the channel) to telecast any such interview.”
The interview was broadcast on Monday evening, hours after the Calcutta high court division bench of chief justice Prakash Shrivastava and justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj ruled that “the petition is based upon mere apprehension..”
“The petitioner has also failed to disclose his full credentials. Thus, no ground for granting the prayer in the writ petition is made out,” said the order, a copy of which was seen by HT.
Since the West Bengal government was made a party to the case, advocate general S N Mookherjee also expressed his reservations about the broadcast.
“Learned Advocate General has also submitted that nothing should be permitted which can affect the reputation of the institution and that primary concern is to protect the institution and in support of his submission he has place reliance upon the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Prashant Bhushan and Another, reported in 2021,” said the order.
In their ruling, the judges said: “…..there is no material on record to show that on what issue, if any, the Hon’ble Judge is going to speak.”
“So far as the reference to the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life adopted by Full Court Meeting of the Supreme Court of India on 7th May, 1997 is concerned, we have no doubt that it is within the knowledge of all the Hon’ble Judges of the Court. Therefore, we have full faith that Hon’ble Judge/Judges of this Court will have due regard to the same while making any statement at any occasion. Same is the position in respect of Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct,” the order said.
The bench said that it expects that “in the larger public interest” the channel will not “telecast or broadcast anything which may have adverse effect on the image of the judiciary.”
Referring to the advocate general’s statement, the court said the judgment in the matter of advocate Prashant Bhushan was rendered on a different issue relating to an alleged derogatory tweet by a lawyer. “Hence, the same has no application in this case,” the bench observed.
In the interview, justice Gangopadhyay talked of certain faces of his professional and personal life and said he will never compromise on the issue of honesty.
“I have always been honest and will continue to be so. If I sit to judge similar cases of corruption I will pass strong orders,” said the judge, observing that corruption has become an accepted part of public life.
“This is extremely sad,” he said.