Supreme Court: In a Friday evening hearing, the bench of AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli, JJ sat to pass an urgent order of stay on Calcutta High Court’s Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay’s order directing Supreme Court’s Secretary General to produce the transcript of his “controversial” interview on ABP Ananda’s show “Ghanta-Khanek Songe Suman”. In the said interview, Justice Gangopadhyay had made remarks against TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee in relation to the West Bengal Teachers Recruitment Scam case, which was pending before him.
The transcript prepared by the Interpreting Officer of Calcutta High Court, along with a CD containing the interview, which was broadcasted on ABP Ananda, was placed before the bench of Dr DY Chandrachud, CJ and PS Narasimha, J, that led to the Supreme Court directing the Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court to reassign the pending proceedings in the case to some other Judge of the Calcutta High Court. The Court also directed that the Judge to whom the proceedings are reassigned by the Acting Chief Justice would be at liberty to take up all applications which may be moved in that regard.
The West Bengal Teachers Recruitment Scam and the Chronology of events
The issue relates to allegations of illegalities and corruption in the Teacher Eligibility Test 2014 conducted in 2016. The Calcutta High Court, at first, ordered a CBI probe into the matter in April 2022 and then later in June 2022, cancelled the appointment of 269 teachers on the ground of illegality. The said order was consequently stayed by the Supreme Court.
Abhishek Banerjee alleged in a public speech that the CBI and ED were pressurising TMC Youth Leader Kuntal Ghosh to name in the scam. Later, Ghosh also filed a formal complaint stating the same.
Calcutta High Court, on 13-04-2023, hence, directed CBI and ED to investigate Abhishek Banerjee and his speech. When this order was challenged before the Supreme Court on 17-04-2023, Justice Gangopadhyay’s interview was brought to the Court’s notice and the Court hence, stayed the impugned order of Calcutta High Court.
On 24-04-2023, the Supreme Court directed the Registrar General of the High Court of Calcutta to personally verify from Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay as to whether he had been interviewed by ABP Ananda and file an affidavit before on or before 27-04-2023.
On 28-04-2023, after perusing the transcript, the Supreme Court directing the Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court to reassign the pending proceedings in the case to some other Judge of the Calcutta High Court.
On the same day, Justice Gangopadhyay, in an unusual order, directed Supreme Court’s Secretary General to produce the transcript of his “controversial” interview on ABP Ananda’s show “Ghanta-Khanek Songe Suman” by midnight. His order read as follows:
“For the sake of transparency, I direct the Secretary General of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to produce before me the report and the official translation of the interview given by me in media and the affidavit of the Registrar General of this Court in original, forthwith by 12 midnight today. This is required for the sake of transparency. I will be waiting in my chamber till 12:15 in the midnight to get the said two sets in original which were placed before the Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court today.”
This led to the bench of AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli, JJ passing an urgent order of stay on Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay’s order after taking note of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s submission that,
“an order of the present nature ought not to have been passed in a judicial proceeding, more so keeping in view the judicial discipline expected to be maintained.”
[In re: Suo Motu Proceedings in WPA No. 10634 of 2023 by the Single Judge of the Calcutta High Court, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 536, order dated 28.04.2023]