Jan. 24: The Park Street rape case is teaching the Bengal government one humbling lesson after another.
The Bengal government cut a sorry figure in the Supreme Court today when it emerged that it had copied verbatim documents purportedly provided by the accused and filed them as part of prosecution papers opposing bail for the same accused.
In the process, the government also reproduced several mistakes.
Poring over the pages, the apex court castigated the government for its casual attitude and slapped a fine of Rs 50,000. But the fine was eventually waived after the state counsel admitted his mistake and sought mercy.
The bail plea of Sumit Bajaj, one of the accused, will now be heard on January 29.
The bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and H.L. Gokhale was furious when it realised that several of the 49 pages filed on behalf of the government had sentences that did not make sense. "It is unfortunate the manner in which the papers are being filed. The pages are illegible. We can't read anything. We find it impossible to comprehend this. The state shall be saddled with a cost of Rs 50,000," the bench said.
The court also chided its registry for accepting such material. "We will order suspension of the registry official for accepting such papers. It is a rotten system. We would like to come out of this rot," the bench added.
Avijit Bhattacharjee, the counsel for Bengal, then admitted his mistake ' something the chief minister did not do after she termed the rape complaint "sajano" (fabricated) and landed herself in a mess.
The counsel made a fervent plea: "We request our lordships may waive the fine. It will not be repeated."
Justice Singhvi, heading the bench, relented: "At the end of the day, we also mellow down."
Bengal counsel Bhattacharjee told The Telegraph later in response to a question: "It was totally my mistake. In my haste and pressure of work, I had actually copied and typed the statement recorded by the victim before the judicial magistrate without correcting the mistakes.
"I was sent a copy of the statement by police along with other documents. But instead of relying on (that) material, what I did was pick up the copy of the (victim's) statement annexed to the petition by the petitioner (Bajaj) and copied it…. It was my mistake and I hold myself responsible.
"That is the reason I also apologised in the court and sought waiver of the fine."
Senior counsel K.T.S. Tulsi, appearing for Bajaj, could not be contacted to corroborate if there were mistakes in the statement attached to the petition.
Senior advocate and Trinamul MP Kalyan Banerjee, who was the state's standing counsel in the Supreme Court until being replaced by Bhattacharjee last October, was in the court today. "The standing counsel of the state in Delhi should have checked the statement thoroughly before placing it before the judges," Banerjee said later.
"When I interfered and pleaded, the bench restrained itself from imposing any fine," Banerjee added. The Telegraph correspondent saw Banerjee near Bhattacharjee but could spot only Bhattacharjee apologising and pleading for leniency.
Bhattacharjee, sources in Calcutta said, had been handpicked by new law minister Chandrima Bhattacharya. Asked about the court reprimand, Chandrima said: "Such things happen regularly. Almost every day one counsel or another is reprimanded."