The Supreme Court in a special hearing today, stayed all the proceedings before the division bench and the single judge of the Calcutta High Court in the matter where it took suo moto cognizance of an order passed by a single bench of the Calcutta High Court terming an order of the division bench as "illegal". The case pertained to alleged irregularities in the admission of MBBS candidates in state-run medical colleges and hospitals in West Bengal.

Pertinently, a division bench of the High Court comprising Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Uday Kumar had stayed a single bench's order directing a CBI probe into the matter. However, on Thursday, the single-judge bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay termed the order passed by the division bench as wholly illegal and that it has to be ignored considering the political bias of the bench hearing the matter.

A five-judge bench of CJI D Y Chandrachud, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice B R Gavai, Justice Surya Kant (appeared virtually) and Justice Aniruddha Bose while hearing the matter in a special sitting on a Saturday, observed, "Issue notice to the original petitioner in writ petition…and to the State of West Bengal, Mr Kapil Sibal appears on behalf of the State of West Bengal with Mr Huzefa Ahmadi and Aastha Sharma, Standing counsel accepts notice. Pending further orders, there shall be a stay of all further proceedings before the High Court of Calcutta and before the Division Bench and the Single Bench; 2. The implementation of the direction issued by Single Judge on 24 January 2024 and 25 January 2024 shall in consequence remain stayed".

Attorney General R Venkataramani, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Senior Advocate Dr AM Singhvi, and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for the State were present in the Court.

At the outset, during the arguments, CJI said, "What we propose to do is...this would perhaps meet the ends of justice, we will stay further proceedings...We will list the proceedings on Monday again. In the meantime, we shall stay all the proceedings before the High Court in the writ petition as well as the letters patent appeal. And we will stay the implementation of the direction of the single judge directing a reference to the CBI at this stage. On Monday, we will then take up the matter and see what further action has to be taken…”.

"Fair enough", said Sibal in response.

However, Mehta then submitted, "One aspect I am flagging, I am not arguing and your lordships must be aware, I am not on the validity or the legality of the learned Single Judge Bench’s order or Division Bench’s order. I am more concerned about the procedure of passing an interim order without either appeal memo or impugned order before the division bench, which, in the case of this very High Court, this Hon'ble Court has, exercising power under Section 141, prohibited…”.

"We don’t even want to make a prima facie determination at this stage”, said CJI.

"We will assist your lordship in principle… Sometimes like hanging or demolishing it cannot wait…”, responded Mehta.

"I don’t want to respond to that…we should wait till Monday", said Sibal.

In the impugned order the Single-judge had ordered, "I am of the view that the order passed by Justice Sen's Division Bench quashing the FIR today is nor a valid order because it is a continuation of an appeal void ab initio and he has acted against the law with his own interest as has been indicated above. In the order passed by the Division Bench, I repeat, there is no recording as to the urgency of the matter. I do not know whether sky was falling upon some persons by order of CBI enquiry. Therefore, the FIR should remain intact because Justice Sen's Division Bench's order is wholly illegal and has to be ignored. CBI should start acting by investigating into the matter".

In the initial line of the order, the bench had also noted, "Now I have to do something which is though unusual but unless I do this I think I will fail in my duty to hold the sanctity of judiciary in general and this court in particular".

It was alleged in the order that Justice Sen was "clearly acting for some political party" in the State and therefore, the matter need to be looked into by the Supreme Court.

Justice Gangopadhayay further noted in the order that he was told some days back by Justice Amrita Sinha that Justice Soumen Sen called her in Justice Sen's chamber on the last day before vacation and like a political leader he dictated her terms.

Cause Title: In Re: Orders Of Calcutta High Court dated 24.01.2024 and 25.01.2024 and ancillary issues.