26 Feb 2022 8:51 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Thursday came down heavily on the West Bengal Central School Service Commission (WBSSC) pertaining to the alleged irregularities in the appointment of 'Group-D' (non-teaching staff) in sponsored Secondary and Higher Secondary schools under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) on the purported recommendation by the WBSSC. In 2016, the State government...
The Calcutta High Court on Thursday came down heavily on the West Bengal Central School Service Commission (WBSSC) pertaining to the alleged irregularities in the appointment of 'Group-D' (non-teaching staff) in sponsored Secondary and Higher Secondary schools under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) on the purported recommendation by the WBSSC.
In 2016, the State government had recommended the appointment of about 13,000 non-teaching staff in different government aided schools and accordingly the WBSSC had conducted examinations and interviews periodically and thereafter a panel had been constituted. The term of the panel had ended in 2019. However, subsequently, there were widespread allegations that the Commission had made several irregular recruitments close to almost 500 even after the expiry of the panel.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta had earlier set up an inquiry committee headed by Justice Ranjit Kumar Bagh, former judge of the Calcutta High Court. The other members of the committee includes Asutosh Ghosh, Member of West Bengal School Service Commission, Paromita Roy, Deputy Secretary (Administration), West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and advocate Arunava Banerjee, a practicing lawyer of the High Court.
On Thursday, the Division Bench took on record the relevant documents submitted by the Court appointed inquiry committee in a sealed cover. Consequently, the Bench enquired from the Commission as to whether any recommendation had been made beyond May 4, 2019. In response, the Commission categorically stated that no recommendation beyond the expiry of the period i.e. the May 4, 2019 was ever issued by the Commission. However, it was noted that the WBBSE had issued appointment letters to 573 candidates despite no such recommendation being extended by the Commission.
In this regard, the Bench observed with dismay,
"The Court cannot be a mute spectator and allow the litigant to get a clean chit even if they took a stand that they have not issued any recommendation. The Commission is answerable for such act and cannot shy away from such responsibilities by taking a stand that no recommendation was issued."
The Court further underscored that both the Commission and the WBBSE have prevaricated the stand at the different stages of the litigation initiated before the Court. Opining further that the records produced by the inquiry committee reveals a 'shocking state of affairs', the Court observed further,
"The record reveals the shocking state of affairs and we refrain ourselves to make any observations thereupon in the midst of an investigation/enquiry by the committee constituted by this Court..The moment prima facie evidence has been produced raising a serious concern on the modalities of the recommendation/appointment made to the candidates not only beyond the expiration of the panel but to the candidates who were not included in the panel itself, such stand has been taken in order to shirk the responsibilities."
The Court further noted that the investigation is at an advanced stage and further directed the inquiry Committee to complete the task as entrusted upon them as early as possible. The Commission was further ordered to produce all the relevant documents to the inquiry Committee within 2 days including the panel published on the website.
It was further held that recovery of the salary extended to the alleged illegal candidates will be subject to the outcome of the instant appeal. The Court further extended the earlier issued interim order for a period of 4 weeks or until further orders.
Since, the time period granted to the inquiry committee was also extended by 4 months, the Court increased the remuneration that is to be provided to the Committee members. The Court ordered that a payment of Rs.1,00,000 has to be extended to Justice R.K.Bag and a payment of Rs 50,000 has to be extended to advocate Arunava Banerjee as ad hoc remuneration.
The matter is slated to be heard next after 3 weeks.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta had earlier imposed a stay for 2 weeks on a Single Bench's order which had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a probe into the alleged recruitment scam. Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay had ordered a CBI probe despite the fact that the Division Bench had quashed Justice Gangopadhyay's earlier order wherein a similar CBI probe had been ordered into the alleged recruitment scam.
Justice Gangopadhyay had earlier directed the concerned District Inspectors of Schools to not pay any further salary to 573 candidates who had allegedly been appointed for the post of 'Group-D' (non-teaching staff) in sponsored Secondary and Higher Secondary schools under the WBBSE despite no such recommendation by the WBSSC. It had been further ordered that the salary already paid to the 573 candidates must be recovered from from them by using the relevant laws, both civil and criminal.
Justice Gangopadhyay had also come down heavily on the inquiry committee for the delay in filing of the inquiry report and had further observed with dismay that none of the committee members or none on behalf of the committee were present before the Court during the hearing. He had further directed the inquiry committee to file an interim report by February 14, 2022 as to the stage they have proceeded in inquiry of the corruption and the angle of money trail, if any, till date.
"The appeal court mandated the committee to file the report by two months from the date of the order of the appeal court. The order of the appeal court was passed on 6th December, 2021. Today we are on 9th February, 2022. Although the said mandatory period of two months have elapsed, not only no inquiry report has been submitted before this court but also nobody of the committee, or on behalf of the committee, did care to appear before this court. This non-appearance is taken very very seriously by this court", Justice Gangopadhyay had observed.
Subsequently, the Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta extended the time granted to the inquiry committee to submit its report by 4 months. Pertinently, the Division Bench also expunged the adverse remarks made by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay in his order dated February 9 against the inquiry committee pursuant to the request made by the concerned counsels.
Case Title: State of West Bengal v. Sandeep Prasad & Ors
Click Here To Read/Download Order