The Supreme Court January 31 refused to entertain a plea seeking removal of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for allegedly "openly desecrating" the office and the Constitution in suggesting that a "foreign entity" was required to ascertain neutrality on the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, however, granted the petitioner permission to withdraw the plea with liberty to approach the Calcutta High Court on the issue.
"We understand the issue is important but it will be appropriate if you approach the high court," said the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, after counsel appearing for the petitioner said that the issue is important and the apex court should consider it.
The top court was hearing the plea filed by Varaaki, a journalist and President of "Indian Makkal Mandram" who had contended that a Chief Minister of a state takes an oath to uphold the sovereignty of India, and must not make any statements which go against the country's sovereignty and integrity.
On December 19 last year, the Chief Minister had said, "Just because BJP has got the majority doesn't mean they can do whatever they want. If the BJP has guts, it should go for a United Nations-monitored referendum on the issue of Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC."
The plea claimed that it was "not acceptable" for any citizen to seek an intervention of an "outside body" to settle disputes inside the territory of India.
"The Chief Minister of a State is not permitted to make such a statement and thirdly that it gives a very bad signal," the plea said.
It claimed that the moment a constitutional authority sought a referendum in the Indian territory with the assistance and monitoring of an international/alien agency, the constitutional authority ceased to believe in the "sovereignty and integrity" of the country.
"The moment the constitutional authority makes a statement that a foreign entity is required to ascertain neutrality, then the authority also doubts the institutions in India under the Indian Constitution and this includes the Judiciary as well and even from this perspective, the statement is worthy of being scrutinized in terms of the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971," the plea said.
The petitioner sought issuance a writ of quo warranto (legal action requiring a person to show by what warrant an office or franchise is held) to the Governor of West Bengal as regards the continuance of Banerjee as the Chief Minister of the state.
"That the plea as a quo warranto questioning the basis on which Mamata Banerjee continues in the office of the Chief Minister of West Bengal after she has openly desecrated the pristine Oath of Office and allegiance to the Constitution of India and thereby the trust with which the general public can trust her in so far as the Oath of Secrecy is concerned is lost permanently and irretrievably," it added.
The plea stated that "Mamata Banerjee be divested of the duties of Chief Minister of West Bengal during the pendency of this writ petition.