Recruitment Scam | High Court Grants Bail To Former West Bengal Secondary Education Board President Kalyanmoy Ganguly
The Calcutta High Court today allowed an application for bail moved by the former President and Administrator of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE), Dr Kalyanmoy Ganguly. In allowing the plea, while directing the accused to surrender his passport before the trial court, and refrain from witness tampering of any kind, a division bench of Justice Joymalya Bagchi and...
The Calcutta High Court today allowed an application for bail moved by the former President and Administrator of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE), Dr Kalyanmoy Ganguly.
In allowing the plea, while directing the accused to surrender his passport before the trial court, and refrain from witness tampering of any kind, a division bench of Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Gaurang Kanth held:
In view of the state at which the criminal proceeding is presently poised, we are of the opinion there is little possibility of its commencement even in the near future. Petitioner an old person who is suffering from various ailments. He is in detention for more than one year and two months. In this backdrop continued detention of the petitioner would not be in consonance to the principles of justice and fair procedure which is just, fair and reasonable on the touchstone of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. For these reasons, we are inclined to enlarge the petitioner on bail however, subject to strict conditions.
Ganguly, the petitioner, had been accused of making various illegal appointments of teaching and non-teaching staff as an office bearer of the WBSSE.
It was alleged that he along with others, had entered into a conspiracy to issue illegal appointment letters to unsuccessful candidates to fill up various Group C vacancies across the state.
As president of the board, it was alleged that the petitioner had acted upon illegal letters of recommendation made by the then president of the West Bengal Central School Service Commission, and issued appointment letters to 381 unsuccessful candidates.
Petitioner was in custody for 440 days and had even earlier approached the Court for bail. That bail plea was opposed by the CBI who contended that further investigation was in progress and the petitioner's link with the money trail pertaining to illegal appointments was still being traced, prompting the petitioner to withdraw the same.
Thereafter, when another chargesheet was filed by the CBI, the petitioner again approached the Court seeking bail through the present plea.
Counsel for the petitioner submitted that he had been in custody for over a year and that he had cooperated with the investigation and responded to the summons issued to him.
It was argued that no sanction for prosecution had been granted under the Prevention of Corruption Act and that there was little possibility of a trial commencing in the near future.
"Petitioner is a super-annuated septuagenarian. He had suffered cardiac arrest in 2020 and is suffering from various old age ailments. There is no possibility of his abscondence or evading the process of law," it was submitted.
Counsel for the CBI, on the other hand, opposed the bail plea on the ground that the petitioner was one of the prime conspirators in a deep-rooted conspiracy to appoint undeserving persons to teaching and non-teaching posts in various schools in the State.
It was argued that the petitioner had close ties with the then Minister-in-charge of School Education and his appointment was extended in violation of statuory rules, to enable him to issue fake appointment letters on the fraudulent recommendations of other co-accused in the recruitment scam.
Upon hearing the parties, the Court delved into the principles governing bail. It observed that the dictum bail not jail illuminates at the pretrial stage.
The continued detention of an accused who awaits a prolonged trial is an affront to the principles of presumption of innocence which is a part of the fasiculi fair trial rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Court requires to balance the cry of liberty of an undertrial against other equally weighty issues i.e. nature and gravity of offence, requirement of incarceration for the purpose of investigation, nature and impact of his release on the progress of trial etc, it observed.
In light of equitable consideration needing to be given to the gravity of the offence and individual liberty, the Court applied the 'tripod test.'
It noted that the petitioner was an aged individual who was suffering from frail health. It further observed that he had been interrogated by the investigating agency to their satisfaction, which proved that there was no chance of evasion or absconding by the petitioner.
On the issue of the commission of similar offences, the Court held that the petitioner had been accused of abuse of an office which he no longer held, ruling out such a possibility.
Finally, on the issue of interference with the investigation, the Court observed that the present probe had continued for over a year and that two chargesheets had already been submitted with a third being filed on the directions of the Apex Court.
In this backdrop it is highly improbable that the release of the petitioner on bail would in any way interfere with the progress of investigation and/or intimidate witnesses, the Court observed.
In light of the tripod test, the Court found that the petitioner was entitled to be released on bail.
It was further held that notwithstanding the gravity of an offence, to continue the detention of an undertrial without any other requirements of the tripod test being made would amount to punishing the accused under the garb of undertrial detention.
In conclusion, the Court observed that since no sanction had been obtained for the commencement of prosecution against the petitioner, the criminal proceeding showed little possibility of commencement in the future.
Accordingly, the Court allowed the bail plea, but imposed strict restrictions on the petitioner, including prohibiting him from entering the jurisdiction of Park Street or Bidhannagar Police Station, where the offices of the School Service Commission were situated.
Petitioner was directed to cooperate with the investigation and the trial court was given the liberty to cancel his bail if he failed to appear before the trial court on every date of hearing, until further orders.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 338
Case: In Re: Dr Kalyanmoy Ganguly
Case No: CRM(DB) 4100 of 2023