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Taking corrupt politicians head on to acting on Bengal recruitment scam: Read who is Abhijit Gangopadhyay, the High Court Judge entering politics

One of the major cases that Justice Gangopadhyay heard was the multi-crore recruitment scam where TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee was one of the main accused.

On Tuesday, 5th March, Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of Calcutta High Court submitted his resignation to President Droupadi Murmu, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, and Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court TS Sivagnanam. Hours later, Justice Gangopadhyay announced that he would be joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 7th March. Justice Gangopadhyay’s decision to join BJP did not come as a surprise as there were speculations that he would be joining a political party. Considering his views about Trinamool Congress (TMC) over the years, it was evident that he would be staying away from Bengal’s ruling party.

Justice Gangopadhyay was born on 19th August 1962. He graduated from Calcutta University’s Hazra Law College. Justice Gangopadhyay started his career as a Grade A officer of the West Bengal Civil Services. During his tenure as a land revenue officer, he acted on local corruption which led to threats to his life. Soon after, he resigned from his government job and moved back to Kolkata. After that, he started working as a lawyer and remained a penal lawyer for several insurance companies and the insurance regulator.

As per High Court documents, he was appointed an Additional Judge at the High Court on 2nd May 2018. On 30th June 2020, he was appointed as a permanent Judge in the Calcutta High Court. Justice Gangopadhyay was scheduled to retire on 19th August 2024. However, he decided to resign from his post and join BJP. It is unclear if he is going to get a ticket for the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections but the probability of that happening is high.

Justice Gangopadhyay directed CBI and ED to probe recruitment scam

One of the major cases that Justice Gangopadhyay heard was the multi-crore recruitment scam where TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee was one of the main accused. In 2022, he directed the CBI to probe the alleged recruitment scam leading to a scuffle between the judiciary and the ruling party. Justice Gangopadhyay’s decision to terminate over 32,000 appointments of teachers rocked the state government like never before. However, the order was later stayed by the Supreme Court.

During the hearing of the matter, he threatened to summon the entire cabinet to court and said, “No one has the right to do anything with the Constitution of India. I might have to ask the Election Commission to cancel the recognition of Trinamool Congress as a political party and withdraw its party logo.”

Justice Gangopadhyay’s clean track record impressed colleagues

Reports suggest that those who have worked with Justice Gangopadhyay deem him as an honest judge. A former judge of the Calcutta High Court told Indian Express, “He probably has a view that you have to adopt different methods to tackle corruption. But it’s not that he has any love for one party. He quit his civil services job after seeing massive corruption under the Left government. But despite his intentions, this may not be the way to do things.”

Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay’s heated Reaction to fellow judge’s actions

In the fake caste certificate case, Justice Gangopadhyay ordered the West Bengal police to hand over case documents to CBI. The state was accused of issuing fake caste certificates to applicants so that they could gain admission to medical courses. However, a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court stayed the order. Justice Soumen Sen was part of the bench. Reacting to the decision of the Division Bench, Justice Gangopadhyay accused Justice Sen of “acting for a political party in the State”.

Later, he took up the matter and ordered the Advocate General to hand over the case papers to CBI while insisting that he wasn’t informed about the stay order. He also accused Justice Sen of pressuring another Justice not to take a tough stance against TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee. According to the allegation, Justice Amrita Sinha was presiding over cases involving TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee. Justice Sen then summoned Justice Sinha to his chambers and advised her not to disturb Abhishek Banerjee, citing his political future. Following the remarks by Justice Gangopadhyay, the Supreme Court of India took Suo Moto cognizance of the matter and transferred the matter to itself while staying Justice Gangopadhyay’s orders.

Supreme Court’s reaction to Justice Gangopadhyay’s interview related to sub-judice case

In April 2023, the Supreme Court of India came down heavily on Justice Gangopadhyay for giving an interview to a Bengali news channel related to the recruitment scam. During the interview, Justice Gangopadhyay allegedly spoke against TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee.

Reacting to the interview, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said, “I just want to say that judges have no business granting interviews on matters which are pending. If he said that about the petitioner (Mr Banerjee), he has no business participating in the proceedings. The question is whether a judge who has made statements like these about a political personality should be allowed to participate in the hearings. There has to be some process.”

Later on 28th April, the Supreme Court asked the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court to reassign the recruitment scam case to another judge. Justice Gangopdhyay did not shy away from taking the matter head-on with the apex court and on the same day issued an order to the Secretary General of the Supreme Court to produce the documents of his removal from the case before him by midnight. Supreme Court stayed the order on the same evening.

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