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Banerjee government's run-ins with the judiciary (West Bengal newsletter)

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A few months ago, Banerjee had alleged that there were instances where court judgments were bought. Following her allegations, newly appointed Minister of State for Agriculture Becharam Manna - leader of the Singur agitation that played a key role in bringing Banerjee to power - made some derogatory remarks against the judiciary regarding the pending land case between the state government and automobile major Tata Motors.

Banerjee got a reprieve this week with the Calcutta High Court declining to initiate suo motto contempt proceedings against her by observing "the chief minister's speech is not one which transcends the Lakshmana rekha of scandalising the court".

But Manna was not that lucky. The Calcutta High Court issued a contempt notice against him Wednesday. He has been asked to file an affidavit detailing his side of the matter.

The case would again come up for hearing in the new year.

The latest to slam the judiciary is minister Subrata Mukerjee. Speaking at a rally in Hooghly district in Singur, Mukherjee alleged that courts were trying to "run the government".

Mukherjee, who holds the panchayat and public health engineering portfolios, echoed Banerjee by saying "good justice" could be availed for "good money".

The Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government has been stumbling in legal corridors ever since it formulated the Singur Land Act seeking to return 400 acres to peasants in the rural belt from whom land for the Tata Motors' small car Nano project had been taken by the erstwhile Left Front government in 2006.

When Tata Motors moved a court calling the act "unconstitutional", the government won the case in a single-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court, but lost out in a division bench.

The case is now in the Supreme Court, and the state government seems to be on a sticky wicket in Singur, where "unwilling" farmers -- who had backed Banerjee's party to the hilt during the ani-Nano movement -- are restive at not getting back their land.

Besides Singur, the government's bid to recruit over 34,000 primary teachers in the state also hit legal hurdles twice in the last two weeks.

First, a single-judge bench stayed the recruitment tests slated to begin Dec 23 on a petition that the government was not giving preference to trained candidates. However, the stay was vacated when the state primary school board moved an appeal before a division bench.

The single-judge bench, acting on a plea by an organisation of visually-challenged people, Friday declared the state government's notification for recruitment of primary teachers null and void and unconstitutional saying it did not reserve posts for them.

Last but not the least, the Calcutta High Court has restrained a judicial commission set up by Banerjee from probing two terms of reference in a politically volatile case related to the lynching of three people by a mob 42 years ago in 1970 in Burdwan district.

The names of several top Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leaders figure in the case.

In his order, Justice Dipankar Dutta restrained the Justice Arunabha Basu Commission from looking into why the incident occurred and who were involved till further orders.

Justice Dutta has also asked the state government to file an affidavit within six weeks detailing why it started a new judicial probe into the incident, on which an earlier judicial commission had submitted a report.

The CPI-M has termed the appointment of the Basu commission, after the Trinamool Congress came to power, as "politically motivated".

--Indo-Asian news Service

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