ECI slaps 24-hour campaign bar on BJP’s Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay for remarks against Mamat
ECI slaps 24-hour campaign bar on BJP’s Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay for remarks against Mamat

The former Calcutta High Court judge's remarks against West Chief Minister Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee brought disrepute to the State, the poll body said.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday imposed a 24-hour campaigning ban on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Calcutta High Court judge, Abhijit Gangopadhyay in the wake of his recent remarks against West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mamata Banerjee.

By its order, the ECI barred Gangopadhyay from campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections for a 24-hour period starting from 5 PM today (May 21).

In an order signed by ECI Secretary Rakesh Kumar, the poll body stated that the retired Calcutta High Court judge's remarks brought disrepute to the State which has a culture of respecting women.

The comments were allegedly made during a public meeting held on May 15 at Haldia, which led to a complaint to the ECI by the All-India Trinamool Congress.

Justice Gangopadhyay is reported to have said the following in Bengali:

"Mamata Banerjee, how much are you being sold for? Your rate is 10 lakh, why? Because you're getting your make up done by Keya Seth? Mamata Banerjee, is she even a woman? I keep wondering sometimes."

The ECI, after going through Gangopadhyay's reply to a show-cause notice, stated that it was convinced that he "made a low-level personal attack and thus violated the provisions of Model Code of Conduct."

The poll body also asked the BJP leader and former judge to remain careful when he makes public utterances in future.

"By Shri Abhijit Gangopadhyay's words, he has brought damage and disrepute to the state of West Bengal that has a distinguished tradition of respect for women; and Now, therefore, the Commission hereby strongly censures Shri Abhijit Gangopadhyay for the above-said misconduct and debars him from campaigning for 24 hours starting from 17.00 hrs of 21st May, 2024," the ECI's order said.

West Bengal and Election Commission

The poll body in its four-page order added that women have commanded the highest respect in Indian society across times and that their status cannot be allowed to be eroded in any manner during the elections.

"The Commission remains uncompromisingly committed to the same above declaration and finds Shri Abhijit Gangopadhyay's statement a direct affront on the 'erosion of status of women in India'; such statement that is outrightly condemnable when used in respect of any woman, not to speak of a senior political leader and holder of a constitutional position, who he has targeted," the ECI said.

Given the former judge's background, he is not entitled to any leniency, the ECI further observed.

"The Commission painfully notes the fact that such abominable words have come from someone of Shri Abhijit Gangopadhyay's educational and professional background and hence does not remotely deserve any benefit of doubt."

The former Calcutta High Court judge had in March resigned from service and joined the BJP, and is contesting as a candidate during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections from the Tamluk constituency in West Bengal.

Notably, this is the constituency from which now-BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari was twice elected (in 2009 and 2014) to the Lok Sabha on a Trinamool Congress (TMC) ticket.

A copy of the ECI order passed today has been marked to BJP chief JP Nadda, advising that an advisory must be issued to the party's members to refrain from making comments against women. In this regard, the ECI recounted that it had already called for the issue of such an advisory in April.

"Most regrettably, however, Shri Abhijith Gangopadhyay has committed the same type of violation to a worse degree. This is deemed as a grave failure to enforce one of the most basic conducts in election campaign, even after clear directions from the commission," the ECI order said.

Abjijith Gangopadhyay was earlier set to retire from his post as a Calcutta High Court judge in August this year. However, he stepped down from his post on March 5 and later joined politics.

The former judge was no stranger to controversy, even before is abrupt resignation from judicial service.

Months before he stepped down from judicial office, the former judge accused fellow High Court judge, Justice Soumen Sen of "acting for a political party in the State".

The Supreme Court eventually took cognisance of the rift between the two judges and transferred all proceedings concerning the same to itself.

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