Justice Rajesh Bindal: A Tale of Competence and Caution

Narada Bribery Case

In 2014, Tehelka news’ Mathew Samuel went undercover as a high-ranking official of Impex Consultancy Solutions, a fictitious Chennai-based company. The extensive con included measures like the creation of fake social media accounts as well as a fake Aadhar Card. Posing as Santhosh Shankaran, Samuel approached the Deputy Mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Iqbal Ahmed, who introduced him to an IPS officer. The now suspended IPS SMH Mirza then introduced Samuel to various politicians. Little did he know he was just a pawn in a rather elaborate sting operation. Coincidently, he was also the first person to be arrested by the CBI in connection to this case… but let’s not get ahead of the story. This SMH Mirza-assisted networking marked the beginning of the Narada bribery case – known for exposing various allegedly corrupt Trinamool Congress (TMC) ministers. It was conducted over a period of two years during which Samuel, posing as Santhosh, met with innumerable All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) politicians and state ministers. Finally, in 2016, Matthew Samuel released 52 hours of footage he shot with the help of his colleague Angel Abraham. Parts of this footage were posted on the YouTube channel of BJP (West Bengal) as well.

The original 52-hour footage showed Trinamool Congress MPs: Mukul Roy, Sougata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Bannerjee, Aparupa Poddar, Suvendu Adhikari and now deceased Sultan Ahmed accepting bribes in exchange of unofficial favors for Samuel’s fake company. State ministers Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra and Iqbal Ahmed were seen taking bribes too. Mukul Roy, who joined BJP in September 2017 and returned to TMC in June 2021, was seen asking ‘Santhosh’ to visit his party office with promised cash. The most interesting part of the entire undertaking was that Samuel claimed K.D Singh, a member of TMC itself as well as a majority holder in Tehelka, knew and funded the entire operation. However, this was denied by Singh. 

Amidst the years of the operation, Samuel quit Tehelka and started his own news portal called Narada. These findings were published in this portal months before the 2016 West Bengal assembly elections. The operation is known as the ‘Narada sting/bribery case’ and held the attention of the entire nation. The probe was handed to CBI in 2016 but the case resurfaced in 2021, only to fall into the court of Justice Rajesh Bindal.

Journey from Punjab & Haryana High Court to Jammu & Kashmir High Court

Slated to be the upcoming Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Justice Rajesh Bindal has quite a fascinating story. He was born in Ambala, Haryana, in the year 1961. He passed his matriculation exam from S.A. Jain School, Ambala following which he studied in S.A. Jain College as well. He did B.Com from Punjab University (Chandigarh). Finally, he obtained his L.L.B degree from Kurukshetra University in the year 1985, and this is where his legal journey started.

When someone enters the legal profession, especially if they wish to become a judge, the question, “Are any of your family members a part of the legal fraternity?” is often posed to them. This somewhat attests to the presence of nepotism within the Indian courts. However, in the case of Justice Bindal, nepotism remains out of the question since none of his family members are in the legal field. 

Bindal’s Path to Judgeship

Another road to judicial appointments is via state committees and legal matters of the state. A number of judges have caught the eye of the collegium by being active members of state-level committees and appearing in significant cases on behalf of the state, leading to their elevation to the position of a high court judge. Rajesh Bindal represented various committees and was associated with the Punjab & Haryana High Court for more than 20 years before he was elevated to the position of Punjab and Haryana High Court judge on March 22nd, 2006.

Justice Bindal was the Standing Counsel for the Income-Tax Department of Haryana. He also appeared on behalf of the state of Haryana in the settlement of the dispute concerning Satluj-Yamuna Water with the State of Punjab before the Honourable Eradi Tribunal and the Supreme Court. Bindal has represented the Punjab and Haryana regions of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation as well. Moreover, he has practised in the Central Administrative Tribunal which is responsible for adjudication or trial of matters connected with recruitment and conditions of service of personnel in public service in India. 

Cases of Competence

After more than a decade at the Punjab & Haryana High Court, Bindal was transferred to Jammu and Kashmir High Court in November 2018. In 2021, he was transferred to Calcutta High Court where he was elevated to the position of Acting Chief Justice. At different points in his judgeship, Bindal has given various rational judgements that testify to his competency. 

Case against Bar Council of India (BCI) Rules, 2006

In 2017, a Division Bench consisting of Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice H.S. Sidhhu dismissed a frivolous petition challenging the Bar Council of India (BCI) rules (2006). The aforesaid rules provide that superior courts (the Supreme Court and High Courts) should be addressed as ‘Your Honour’ and ‘Honourable Court’ whereas the term ‘Sir’ is acceptable in subordinate courts and tribunals. The petition was filed by lawyer Virender Pal Sharma as he was concerned that his usage of words like ‘My lord’ and ‘Your lordship’ may lead to violation of the terms of BCI and lead to action against him. The Punjab and Haryana High Court observed that neither any action has been taken on any lawyer so far nor had the petitioner himself been penalised for using the expression. Moreover, the petitioner was not able to show any provision which provided for any action on any advocate for not adhering to BCI rules. Even though the terms ‘My lord’ and ‘Your Lordship’ are archaic and colonial, the petition was dismissed. The lawyers, thus, cannot be penalised for addressing judges as ‘My Lord’.

Decriminalising Begging in Kashmir

In October 2019, a Division Bench of the then Jammu and Kashmir Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal struck down the J&K Prevention of Beggary Act (1960) and Prevention of Beggary Rules (1967), decriminalising begging in Jammu and Kashmir. The court termed begging as a human rights issue and said: “Criminalisation of begging is the outcome of extremely prejudiced social constructs of presumption of criminality against the poor and baseless stereotypes in ignorance of the extreme exclusion and disadvantages faced by the poor who are struggling to survive… The criminalisation of begging, which makes poverty an offence, is intended to remove poor people from public spaces, deprive them of the constitutional guarantees of inclusiveness and pluralism, and results in their further deprivation“. This judgement came a year after advocate Suhail Rashid Bhat filed a PIL requesting the court to declare anti-begging laws as “unconstitutional” and violative of Articles 14, 15, 20 and 21 of the Constitution. Scrapping of these acts was undeniably a step in the right direction.

Illegal Mining in West Bengal

Justice Bindal gave another significant judgement in February 2021 over the coal mining probe case. A single bench verdict had restricted the probe of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for investigating illegal mining and coal transportation only to the railway areas. However, a bench of Justice Bindal and Justice Aniruddha Roy stayed this order stating that “from a plain reading of the FIR it cannot be suggested that the offence has been committed at one place as these are chain of events which are interlinked with the railways and other officers, including those of Para-Military Force, namely CISF, who are drawing salaries from the Central Government”. This ruling also went against the authorities that had withdrawn their consent for the CBI probe.

The Advocate-General of West Bengal argued against the CBI probe citing that there is no need for CBI to be involved and the state has adequate machinery to go about the mining case. However, Justice Bindal and Justice Roy siding with the solicitor-general, Tushar Mehta, held that the “Involvement of the officers of the Eastern Coalfields Ltd., Railways, CISF and other departments was found, besides private persons. A reading of the FIR shows that part of stolen coal was recovered from the railway siding. Investigation of the case certainly relates to the various facets, which have concern with the railways.

Job Regularisation Policy of Haryana

“For gaining personal benefits, the bosses were not concerned about any order or judgment of the court, hence they dared to violate the same,”

BENCH OF JUSTICES RAJESH BINDAL AND ANIL KSHETARPAL IN THE ORDER.

One judgement that deserves special attention from his time in Punjab and Haryana High Court is the quashing of four job regularisation regimes framed by Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government of Haryana in the year 2014. The policies were concerned with regularising contractual and ad hoc employees.

Congress framed job regularisation policies (Haryana, 2014)

They were challenged in August 2014 when various job aspirants alleged instances of backdoor appointments and highlighted the injustice the policies caused to the meritorious candidates. Upon reviewing the case, the high court found that the government had completely overlooked the advice of its law secretary, and went against the directions put forth by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The entire framework was seen as a defective regularisation. The policies were thus quashed by the bench of Justice Bindal and Anil Kshetarpal as it was seen as a way to “please the voters” since the assembly elections were due in October 2014 and against the constitutional ethos.

Although these policies can seem like a step in the right direction, the policies actually handed regular jobs to workers appointed without proper selection method; hence giving rise to backdoor appointments. Moreover, these policies were framed against the precedents of the Supreme Court. However, there is a coincidental fact worth glancing upon. The order of quashing these policies, passed by a bench comprising Justice Rajesh Bindal, was given a year before the 2019 state elections. It is a prevalent practice in politics to make one’s own party seem more desirable by pointing towards the incompetence of the opposition. Needless to say, this judgement did not paint a pretty picture of Congress. This judgement could have easily been a factor in BJP winning the elections in Haryana in 2019.

Bindal’s courtship with Madras High Court

Justice Bindal: a “BJP’s man” and “RSS sympathiser”

In October 2018, a little over 13 years after his appointment in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Bindal’s transfer was recommended by the Collegium. The members of the Collegium at the time were Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice S.A. Bobde. The recommendation seeking Justice Bindal’s transfer came the same month in which Justice Ranjan Gogoi was elevated to the position of Chief Justice of India (October 3rd, 2018), naturally making him the head of the Collegium. In other words, one of the first moves of then CJI Ranjan Gogoi as a member of Collegium was to transfer Bindal amongst other judges (Justice Vineet Kothari and Justice Ravi Ranjan). Ironically, all of these judges opposed their transfer. As for Bindal, he was sought to be transferred to Madras High Court, the state where Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has the major influence and majority, and BJP has little to no influence. It is important to note that there are several allegations against Justice Bindal of being “BJP’s man”. If true, Madras High Court would not have been an ideal choice for Bindal.

Aligning with these allegations, Justice Bindal did, in fact, oppose this transfer. He requested the collegium to reconsider his transfer or transfer him to a state in North India viz. Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh or Rajasthan. The official reason given was that he wanted to be closer to his parents. However, the collegium declined the first request but acceded to the second. Thus, transferring Justice Bindal to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

Roshni Act and the Rs. 25,000 Crore Land Scam

Being the second senior-most judge in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, he shared the bench with the then J&K High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal in 2020 on a hot button case: the Roshni scam case. The official name of the Roshni Act is Jammu and Kashmir State Land Act. It was passed in 2001 by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah-led Jammu & Kashmir National Conference government. The act granted ownership of state land to illegal encroachers in exchange for a government-determined fee. The act was supposed to collect 25,000 crore rupees and this money was earmarked for funding various hydropower projects, hence called the Roshni Act. Unfortunately, the Roshni Act was overshadowed by controversies. 

“… It flagged irregularities and said arbitrary reduction of prices by a standing committee was done to benefit politicians and influential people…. The then State Vigilance Organisation filed an FIR against some people who didn’t satisfy the criteria but managed to vest ownership of land under the scheme. A prominent case came to be known as the Gulmarg land scam, in which several top bureaucrats are accused of illegally transferring land of the Gulmarg Development Authority to private parties… A petition was also filed in the High Court to check violations of the Act based on the 17 FIRs.” – from ‘J&K Roshni Act: Why has it been controversial?

Moreover, while the speculative target of this act was Rs. 25,000 crore, the actual money collected amounted to only Rs. 76.46 crore. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Report from 2014 highlighted the irregularities in the execution of the act and called it a ‘scam’. This is how the case came to be known as the 25,000 crore scam case. The anti-corruption bureau of Jammu (vigilance) was unsuccessfully investigating the already registered 17 FIRs. Consequently, the High Court handed the probe to CBI in October 2020. On this matter, Jammu-based activist and advocate Ankur Sharma said: “Given the manner in which the bureau was handling the case, the court deemed it appropriate to divest it off the investigation and hand it over to the CBI“. Thereafter, the bench repealed the Act and declared it “illegal, unconstitutional and unsustainable”. Weeks after the judgement, the Union Territory Administration declared all actions under the Roshni Act as “null and void“.

Observing the harrowing discrepancies in the numbers, the judgement is undoubtedly reasonable but what falls out of place is the unnecessary delay. The concerned writ petition in the public interest was filed in 2011 and another application was filed by the same petitioner in April 2014 following the CAG 2014 report which unearthed the scam. Nonetheless, the case was taken up by the court only in April 2019 and the judgment was given in October 2020. The five-year gap between the publication of the report and the taking up of the case by the High Court remains unexplainable. … However, right around the time of the judgement, BJP issued a statement slamming Congress and National Conference members. Any sensible party would throw stones like this only if it were sure there would be no splashback.

Boycott by J&K Bar Association

Somewhere along the Roshni case timeline, Justice Rajesh Bindal was boycotted by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Jammu. A resolution to this effect was passed in the meeting of the Executive Committee/Special Invitees of the Association on September 16, 2019. In fact, this meeting was called for having a discussion on Justice Bindal himself. The key issues included his “attitude/behaviour” towards the Advocates in the Court. Although, no explanation of Justice Bindal’s alleged “adverse behaviour” or “attitude” is available. The actual reasons of the boycott thus remain vague and generic. A year after this dispute, Justice Rajesh Bindal was elevated to the position of Acting Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court. He held the position for less than a month from December 8th, 2020 to January 2nd, 2021. Three days after this, he was transferred to Calcutta High Court. It is important to note that West Bengal was not in the list of desirable locations specified by him two years ago when he was sought to be transferred to Madras High Court. Nonetheless, he did not oppose to this transfer and on 5th January, 2021, he became the Acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court.

Judgement on Narada Case

Justice Bindal’s conduct with regard to Narada case has “reduced judiciary to a mockery”.

A letter by Arindam Sinha, a judge in the Calcutta High Court

Justice Bindal has been called a “BJP’s man” and “RSS sympathiser” for his judgment on the Narada case. So let’s circle back to the beginning of the tale, the Narada bribery case. The case was initially handed over to CBI. However, in 2021, Justice Bindal transferred the case from CBI to Calcutta High Court which was a perplexing move… but this was not the most shocking aspect of the judgement for those involved.

“My brother judge is in favour of granting bail to the accused persons. But I disagreed with my brother judge.”

-Rajesh Bindal, Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court

Even though judicial disagreement on such a topic is uncanny since bail is the rule and jail is an exception, it might just indicate Justice Bindal’s sternness and his independent and analytical rigour. On the other hand, Bindal’s refusal to grant bail became the reason for him being called an “RSS sympathiser”. The disaccord led to the possibility of house arrest of at least two Ministers of Bengal. Added to this, he imposed a stay on the CBI passed interim bail of the accused which included Bengal Ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee along with TMC MLAs Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee. This is the case that added fuel to the fire of the allegations of Justice Bindal’s political affiliations. In fact, a letter by the West Bengal Bar Association to the Chief Justice of India questions Justice Bindal’s conduct outwardly. Bindal was referred to as a “BJP’s man” and that he has been “doing the bidding of the Governor”, who is also a BJP member. Moreover, pictures of Rajesh Bindal meeting with Jagdeep Dhankhar, the Governor of West Bengal, are all over the internet. Now, even though it’s not uncommon for a High Court Judge to be meeting with a Governer, the picture served as evidence for many. Another letter written by Arindam Sinha, a judge in the Calcutta High Court, stated that Justice Bindal’s conduct with regard to the Narada case had “reduced judiciary to a mockery”.

The unseen effects of Narada Case on TMC

Suvendu Adhikari was named in the Narada case and resigned from TMC a few months after the release of Justice Bindal’s judgement on the case.

Tracing the steps back to West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee filed a petition challenging Suvendu Adhikari’s victory in Nandigram constituency in 2021. Now a BJP member, Adhikari had defeated Banerjee from this constituency by 1,956 votes in the assembly elections held earlier in the year. Justice Bindal assigned Justice Kausik Chanda to this case. However, Banerjee sought Chanda’s recusal since he had been associated with BJP before he became a judge and had appeared in courts, representing BJP, back when he was a lawyer. Hence, her party apprehended bias against her from this bench. Consequently, Justice Chanda recused himself from the case on July 7th, 2021 and imposed a hefty fine of rupees five lakh (Rs.5,00,000) on Banerjee for the manner in which the recusal was sought.

“The calculated psychological offensives and vilification adopted to seek recusal need to be firmly repulsed, and a cost of Rupees five lakh is imposed upon the petitioner,” 

-Justice Kausik Chanda

Following this, Justice Bindal acceded to Banerjee’s plea to change the bench hearing the case and assigned the case to Justice Shampa Sarkar. It might seem like Banerjee had the edge by simply reviewing this but this was not the case. Suvendu Adhikari was the second most powerful person after Banerjee in TMC until December 2020. However, he was named in the Narada case and resigned from TMC a few months after the release of Justice Bindal’s judgement on the case. The official reason given for this resignation was a fallout with Mamata Banerjee over the new power dynamics which came into play with the rise of Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek and the entry of poll strategist Prashant Kishor. Adhikari joined BJP in the same month and down the timeline, he ended up defeating TMC in the Nandigram constituency with a considerable lead. This disgruntled the party more so than it was when Adhikari left TMC. It is evident that enough damage had already been done.

Suvendu Adhikari, picture from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/ground-report-in-purba-medinipur-a-test-for-suvendu-adhikari-a-bigger-one-for-tmc/articleshow/80174856.cms

Going back to where it all started again, the soundness and logic-abiding underpinning of Bindal’s judgments might make one question the transfer of the case from CBI to Calcutta High Court in the Narada bribery case. After all, Justice Bindal’s competency is not questionable per se. This also implies that he must be smart enough to perceive both sides of a coin. If Justice Bindal is really ‘BJP’s man’ or is doing their bidding, it only makes sense that there would be some sort of reciprocity or the existence of a quid pro quo between Bindal and BJP. However, no record or instance of such ‘reciprocity’ has been traced, at least on paper. At this point, it is also important to note that the statements claiming Bindal to be a ‘BJP’s man’ came mostly, if not only, from West Bengal, where most election polls clearly indicate that the state is not a fan of the party. This viewpoint is supported by the fact that Bindal’s judgements, as isolated units of information, are sensical and may have coincidently worked in favour of the BJP. In fact, it is safe to say that Justice Bindal is a rational and versatile judge. This is also reflected in his demeanour and fields of interest outside the courtroom. 

Justice Bindal: The man outside the courtroom

Even though Justice Rajesh Bindal is adept in taxation, constitutional, civil and service laws, he specialises in taxation. He headed various committees just as he had been an active part of various committees prior to his elevation.

Needless to say, chairmanships has not been the only thing highlighting Bindal’s engagements outside of court. Justice Bindal can be considered a publicly active entity. He congratulated the volunteers of Yuvsatta, officials of the Education Department of Chandigarh Administration, Indian Council of Gandhian Studies and management of KB DAV-7 for promoting the concept of PEACE CLUBS in local schools and colleges. He gave some particularly interesting insights such as “Children in schools should be discouraged to play video games in which primarily all what is there is destruction. In our country, movies with third degree violence are even available for a small child to see” and “Reason for even minor fights or disputes is the lack of tolerance and adjustability, which is the cause of anger, resulting in fights“. Moving forward, he inaugurated the front office of the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) at Udhampur Court Complex. Doing so, he laid emphasis on speedy disposal of cases besides ensuring that litigants are provided with a healthy atmosphere. He also inspected the site in the court where the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) centre is proposed to be constructed.

Justice Bindal was the Chief Guest of the Inaugural Session of a 2-days Virtual Conference from 2nd to 3rd October 2020 on the theme ‘Challenges to the Tax Professionals Post COVID – 19’ organised by The All India Federation of Tax Practitioners (AIFTP) (North Zone) in association with U.P Tax Bar Association, Tax Bar Association Jammu, Punjab Tax Bar Association, Tax Bar Association of Uttarakhand and Himachal Tax Bar Association. During this, he released the publication of AIFTP titled “151 – landmark judgements of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India (Direct taxes, Indirect taxes and Allied laws) – 151 years of Mahatma Gandhi”. He was also the Chief Guest of a cultural programme presented by the inmates of District Jail Jammu, Amphalla on December 30th, 2020. He appreciated the efforts made by jail authorities for the welfare of prisoners and encouraged the inmates to make the best utilisation of their time in prisons by acquiring skills available in the jail. He also lauded the inmates who performed during the function and complimented the trainers and staff of the Prisons Department for their efforts. He ended the day by visiting the Interview Room, Video Conference Room Display Unit & Inmate Calling Room to inspect the facilities available for jail inmates.

When he was the chairperson of the Computer Committee, he spoke at a regional discussion regarding the e-courts project at the Chandigarh Judicial Academy (CJA) and highlighted various parts of the project. This included the e-Filing and e-Diary software for the convenience of litigants and advocates (who could file cases online from the comfort of their home), the categorisation of cases (as carried out by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to facilitate expeditious disposal of cases pertaining to senior citizens and crime against women) and the fact that the digitisation exercise had resulted in scanning of 15.90 crore pages and disposal of 225 tonnes of waste papers, which generated a revenue of Rs 22 lakh and freed valuable space of 15,000 square feet. As he was the Executive Chairperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Legal Services Authority in December 2020, he delivered an address during the e-launch of post-office dependent initiative: Insaf Ki Dastak. This project uses the pre-existent postal system in 11 districts to allow citizens to register their disputes through the local post offices as well as common service centres. Justice Bindal explained the working of the plan of this project.

These public appearances, chairmanships and delivered addresses is just the tip of the iceberg. Justice Rajesh Bindal is indeed an eclectic person. Circling back to the alleged political favouring, even if a vague attempt is to be made to locate this back-scratching, it would be like finding a needle in the haystack. However, there is one instance where a BJP member had directly stepped in to take Bindal’s side.

Expected backlash and the unexpected response

Following the Narada case judgement, Justice Bindal faced various forms of backlash. One of them was a letter by the West Bengal Bar Association sent to the Chief Justice of India which drew Justice Bindal as a politically biased judge. It was seeking the removal of Justice Rajesh Bindal based on his conduct in the Narada case. It stated that Justice Bindal “favoured members of a certain political dispensation without giving the aggrieved parties an opportunity of being heard“. It also emphasised on the ruling which led to a stay on the interim bail of the accused which was passed by the CBI, saying that it was a decision that was condemned by the sitting judges of the Calcutta High Court. Most importantly, this letter was signed by Ashok Kumar Deb, the chairman of the Bar Council as well as a Trinamool Congress MLA. What is interesting is that BJP’s IT Cell Head Amit Malviya tweeted in response to the letter and sided with Justice Bindal without taking Bindal’s name explicitly.

BJP member’s response to the letter

Not long ago, on July 20th, 2021, Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya of the Calcutta High Court issued an order objecting to the way assigning of cases is handled by acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal. It relates to a case involving a scathing order issued by the court against the High Court Administration on the connectivity issues of the video call proceedings. He stated that the virtual court faces interference in the audio and video systems almost every day which affects judicial adjudications. Justice Bhattacharyya further stated that this has “reduced (judiciary) to a circus show“. On the next working day, Justice Bhattacharyya observed that despite issuing specific directions vide the earlier order dated July 16, to list the instant matter as a priority, such directions were not complied with. On the contrary, the instant matter was listed before a Division Bench on the orders of the acting Chief Justice Bindal. Justice Bhattacharyya observed that this overnight reassignment violated the Appellate Side Rules.

“Although it has been clarified that the Chief Justice (including Acting Chief Justice) is the Master of the Roster and “more equal among equals” (not by Orwell but our own Supreme Court), the excess equality pertains only to the Administrative Side of this court and cannot override the Appellate Side Rules, framed and modified by the Full Court comprised of all Judges of this Hon‟ble Court”

-Justice Bhattacharyya on Calcutta Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal’s conduct vis-a-vis case appointments

Separation of Power

It is evident that fingers have been raised on Justice Bindal’s court and conduct every now and then. The allegations range from “adverse behaviour” against advocates to unlawful case appointments to political favouritism. These issues might be the answer to the question: Why, even after serving as the acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court for 8 months, has he not been able to get rid of the word ‘acting’ in his designation? In other words, why has this acting High Court Chief Justice not been elevated to the position of a High Court Chief Justice despite serving for a considerable time? One reason could be that allegations prove to be a hindrance in his appointment and another could be that in order to not unveil the connection between the central government and Justice Bindal, he has not been elevated. However, a recent important update in Justice Bindal’s career is the recent recommendation by the Collegium to make Bindal the Chief Justice of the High Court of Uttar Pradesh: unsurprisingly, a state ruled by the BJP.

Nonetheless, even though it is impossible to accept or deny the allegations with 100% certainty, it is pertinent to go over the issue of political favouring because even the slightest possibility of it being true is worrisome. This is an issue of separation of powers. The divide between judiciary and executive, which is imperative for an independent and healthy judiciary. This divide ensures equality before the law. In Justice Bindal’s court, his alleged affiliation with BJP has led to certain judgements that have “reduced judiciary to a mockery” in the words of Justice Arindam Sinha. There have been two high courts that were disgruntled by his decisions and conduct in the day-to-day affairs. Again, both the high courts are of the states that have always been unhappy with the BJP. But, the fact that Bindal could be an obnoxious individual cannot be out of the question. Notably, no instances of Justice Bindal’s misconduct were explicitly cited by the high courts boycotting/complaining about Bindal.

Now, if BJP really does have an influence over Justice Bindal, his judgements/orders would be biased against certain entities. This would not only be unfair to the opposition parties but also be unjust to the public, whose perceptions might get swayed by biased judgements. While there can be personal gains involved, such supposed favouritism will only become apparent with time. This has the potential of leading to more jeopardized cases or increased backlash. The question thus remains that if the allegations are true, will this affiliation continue to allegedly empower Justice Rajesh Bindal or will it sink his boat in the long run?


Research By: Shreya Chawla, Anshu, and Dhruv Jain
Edited By: Eklavya Dahiya and Kashish Siddiqui Khan

About the Author

Vanshika
Sociology student. An eclectic person with a knack for writing.

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