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    India court slaps fine of Rs5 lakh on Mamata Banerjee

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    The Bengal Chief Minister had asked Justice Chanda to quit the case over ‘conflict of interest’ in the wake of his alleged links with the BJP

    A higher court in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata on Wednesday imposed a fine of 5 lakh rupees on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her “pre-planned move to malign a judge.”

    Justice Kaushik Chanda of Kolkata High Court asked Mamata to deposit the fine before recusing himself from hearing a case filed by the firebrand woman politician challenging the election of her former protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram in May’s assembly polls.

    The Bengal Chief Minister had asked Justice Chanda to quit the case over “conflict of interest” in the wake of his alleged links with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Interestingly, Suvendu is BJP’s leader of opposition in Bengal.

    However, before exiting the case, an enraged Chanda came down heavily on Mamata. “Such calculative, psychological and offensive attempt to seek recusal need to be firmly repulsed and a cost of 5 lakh rupees is imposed upon the petitioner.”

    On May 2, Mamata single-handedly pulled off a landslide victory in the assembly election for the third time in a row, bucking anti-incumbency and staving off a massive challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.

    Though her Trinamool Congress party swept back to power with a resounding majority, Mamata lost her own seat in Nandigram to BJP’s star campaigner Suvendu by a thin margin of 2,000 votes.

    Last month, Mamata moved the high court to declare Suvendu’s election win null and void on the grounds that he indulged in corrupt practices and sought votes on the basis of religion.

    “Suvendu Adhikari has indulged in several corrupt practices that have enhanced his winning chances and materially altered Mamata Banerjee’s chances of success in the election,” her petition read.

    In her petition, Mamata also alleged discrepancies in the counting of votes, Mamata’s lawyer Sanjay Bose had said.

    Though Mamata had conceded defeat to Suvendu in Nandigram — the potboiler of the assembly election in Bengal — the Trinamool supremo said on the counting day only that she would challenge the result in a court of law. “I will move the court against Suvendu’s win,” she had said.

    West Bengal had witnessed the most high-profile contest in India’s recently held state elections. While Mamata harped on being Bengal’s daughter, the BJP asked people to vote for “change and socio-economic development” after nearly 50 years of Communist and Trinamool Congress rule.

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