Praise, controversy companions of Abhijit Gangopadhyay who quit as HC judge to join politics

Calcutta High Court judge Justice Abhijit Gangopadhay at his residence after tendering resignation from his post.
Calcutta High Court judge Justice Abhijit Gangopadhay at his residence after tendering resignation from his post.

Kolkata | Acclaim and controversy have both been companions of Abhijit Gangopadhyay, who resigned as a judge of the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday to join the BJP.

Several of his orders drew praise from various quarters while raising the hackles among the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal.

He has ordered an investigation by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a number of cases involving alleged irregularities in recruitment of teaching and non-teaching staff in West Bengal government-sponsored and -aided schools and also in some other matters.

Justice Gangopadhyay, who was due to retire in August this year, sent his resignation to President Droupadi Murmu on Tuesday, with copies to the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court.

Later in the day, he announced his decision to join the BJP.

Justice Gangopadhyay's first order directing a "preliminary enquiry" by the CBI into alleged irregularities in the appointment of Group D staff in aided/sponsored schools under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) on purported recommendations by the state's School Service Commission (SSC) came on November 22, 2021.

It was on his order later that the ED started its probe into the money trail involved in the school jobs scam.

The ED, which arrested former Education Minister Partha Chatterjee and his alleged close aide Arpita Mukherjee in July 2022, in connection with the probe, claimed to have recovered a huge sum of cash amounting to nearly Rs 50 crore, apart from gold ornaments, foreign currency and property deeds from two premises owned by Mukherjee.

In April 2023, Justice Gangopadhyay had directed the CBI to investigate an alleged scam in municipal recruitment in West Bengal, taking note of the ED's findings during its probe into the school jobs for bribes scam.

In a possibly unprecedented event in the history of the Calcutta High Court, Justice Gangopadhyay took up hearing of a matter at 11 pm on May 18, 2022, and directed the CRPF to take up security of the SSC office by 00.30 am the next day.

His last order directing a CBI investigation came on January 24 this year when he asked the central agency to probe into allegations of irregularities in issuance of certificates of reserved category candidates and use of those for admission in medical colleges in the state.

Following a tussle between his single bench and the division bench of the high court over instituting the CBI probe, the Supreme Court had intervened and transferred to itself all petitions related to the matter.

He also had a brush with the apex court in April 2023 when he had asked the Supreme Court secretary general to produce the transcript of his interview to a Bengali TV channel which was placed before it in connection with a matter.

The SC had asked the Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court to reassign a school jobs "scam" matter to another judge after examining a report on Justice Gangopadhyay's interview to the news channel.

Following the Supreme Court order to reassign the case, Justice Gangopadhyay had directed the secretary general of the Supreme Court to produce before him by midnight the report submitted before the bench of the Chief Justice of India.

The apex court had on that evening stayed Justice Gangopadhyay's direction to the Supreme Court secretary general.

Justice Gangopadhyay, known for his swift directives, occasionally mandating compliance within hours, has garnered appreciation from diverse segments of society, particularly aspiring candidates for school jobs.

However, his observations in some cases have also stirred dissatisfaction among certain leaders of the ruling party in the state.

Gangopadhyay, who practised law at the high court, joined the Calcutta High Court as an additional judge on May 2, 2018. He was elevated as a permanent judge on July 30, 2020, according to data on the high court's website.

On his last sitting in court on Monday, he said that he was a practising lawyer for over 23 years before being appointed as an additional judge.

Prior to entering the legal arena, Gangopadhyay worked in the state government for a brief period.

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