Connectivity Issue: SLP Filed in SC Against Calcutta High Court Judge’s Order

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The Calcutta High Court administration has filed a special leave petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court challenging an order of one of its judges over connectivity issues during virtual hearing of cases, in which he had also expressed reservations over assignment of matters to judges by the Acting Chief Justice. Calcutta High Court Bar Library Club secretary Pramit Ray on Monday said senior judges informed the three bars representing advocates during a meeting that an SLP was filed in the apex court challenging the July 19 order of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya, and so discussions on the issue of assignment of matters to judges will have to wait till its outcome.

“We were informed that an SLP has been filed before the Supreme Court challenging Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya’s order,” Ray said after the meeting, which was also attended by secretaries of the Calcutta High Court Bar Association and the Incorporated Law Society. Justices I P Mukerji, Soumen Sen, Subrata Talukdar, Tapabrata Chakraborty and Shivakant Prasad were the judges who met the representatives of the three bars, in which issues such as physical presence of lawyers along with submissions in the virtual mode and extension of timing of the high court were discussed, Calcutta High Court Bar Association secretary Dhiraj Trivedi said.

Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya of the Calcutta High Court on July 19 released a matter in which he had passed caustic observations in an order over connectivity issues during virtual hearing of cases, while expressing reservations about the way it was assigned to a division bench by the Acting Chief Justice, the “master of roster”. Disturbed with connectivity issues during hearings in the virtual mode, Justice Bhattacharyya had on July 16 directed the high court’s central project coordinator to show cause in writing as to why proceedings should not be drawn up against the High Court Administration, including the registrar general and the central project coordinator, in particular, for criminal contempt of court due to continuous interference in virtual hearings in each and every matter.

The reply to the show-cause notice was filed on the same day, as directed. Following the assignment of the matter to a division bench, Justice Bhattacharyya had said in the July 19 order that at no point of time, he was ever contacted by the Registrar General or the “Acting Chief Justice through His Lordship?s Secretary or O.S.D. (Officer on Special Duty) seeking either my consent or at least having the courtesy to inform me about such assignment,” which he said negates his judicial order in administrative capacity.

“I have serious doubts about the transparency of the system of dispensation of justice in our court in view of the above chain of events,” Justice Bhattacharyya said in the order. He said that the power of assignment springing from the “Master of Roster” concept, “confines the Chief Justice’s administrative power to assign specific Benches for taking up specific types of matters, which cannot be exercised at the whims of the RG or even the Acting Chief Justice.” .

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