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Calcutta High Court Stays Single Bench's Order On CBI Probe Into Irregularities In Non-Teaching Staff Appointments For 3 Weeks

Aaratrika Bhaumik
24 Nov 2021 8:51 AM GMT
Calcutta High Court Stays Single Benchs Order On CBI Probe Into Irregularities In Non-Teaching Staff Appointments For 3 Weeks
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The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday stayed a Single Bench order for 3 weeks wherein a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe had been ordered into the alleged irregularities in the appointment of 'Group-C' and '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...

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The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday stayed a Single Bench order for 3 weeks wherein a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe had been ordered into the alleged irregularities in the appointment of 'Group-C' and '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 West Bengal Central School Service Commission (WBSSC).

Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay on Monday had directed the CBI to submit a preliminary report in this regard by December 21. The Court had also ordered for an enquiry committee to be set up to probe into the alleged irregularities in appointments.

On Tuesday, the State government, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education and the West Bengal Central School Service Commission had jointly moved a Division Bench comprising Justices Harish Tandon and Rabindranath Samanta against the impugned order. 

The Division Bench noted that 'the seriousness of the matter' is evident from the affidavits filed wherein the Commission took a stand that no recommendation was made after the expiration of the panel prepared for giving appointments to the post of Group-D in the Education Department. However, the stand of the Board was diametrically opposite to the stand of the Commission, as they unequivocally stated that they received the recommendation from the Commission from the said panel and, in fact, the appointments were made on such recommendation.

Granting relief on Wednesday, the Division Bench imposed a stay on the impugned order for a period of 3 weeks and accordingly ordered that no CBI enquiry would be conducted in the meantime into the alleged scam. The Court ordered, 

"We find that a prima facie case is made out by the appellants. The impugned order, so far as it relates to the enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation is concerned, is stayed for a period of three weeks from date or until further order/orders of this Court, whichever is earlier"

Taking into consideration the apprehension shown by the petitioners with regards to possibility of destruction or tampering of the important materials, which may ultimately hamper the impartial and fair investigation, the Court further directed, 

"We, therefore, direct the Commission as well as the Board to submit all relevant documents, which has been directed by the Single Bench to be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation, in a sealed cover before this Court in course of this day. The Registrar General of this Court is directed to keep the said documents in its safe custody and shall not permit anybody to have an access thereto unless directed by this Court"

The matter is slated to be heard next on November 29.  

During the course of the hearing, the State submitted before the Court that directing an enquiry by an independent agency i.e. Central Bureau of Investigation is a drastic measure, which should be resorted only in case of rare and exceptional cases. Taking cognizance of this grievance, the Bench further observed while referring to the impugned Single Bench order,

"The Single Bench has observed that the said independent agency shall make an enquiry (not an investigation) in order to identify the miscreants in this matter through whom some letters of recommendation were issued and, in fact, the Board acted thereupon. It is further observed that the enquiry by such independent agency is inevitable, as it is a primary duty of the Court to instill a confidence of the public at large. Neither there is any pleading nor any relief of such kind was sought for by the writ petitioners in the writ applications, which came before the Single Bench"

Furthermore, senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya appearing for the petitioners contended before the Bench that there must be a full-fledged enquiry in order to unearth the truth and foist the responsibility on the person responsible for such illegal practice.

In a strongly worded order, Justice Gangopadhyay had observed that 'corruption writ large in the whole process of this public employment which is required to be dealt with in a firm hand'. He had further underscored, 

"Which is that invisible hand who prepared and sent the recommendation letters to the Board's office and which are the invisible hands who issued the recommendation letters as have been annexed under the signature of the Chair Person of the Regional School Service Commissions as has been disclosed by the Board?"

Emphasising on the need to conduct a probe by an impartial agency, Justice Gangopadhyay had further remarked,

"This is a matter of Education Department which is a State department and in such matters to instill confidence in the public as to the fairness in the appointment in posts for which money from the public exchequer would be spent there should be one enquiry by an impartial agency. I observe that the miscreants, there must be some persons behind this whole corrupt affair, whatever be their position in the society or in the polity, cannot be really political persons - they can take shelter under different political parties. So CBI should look into the extreme irregularity in this appointment from that angle also"

Background

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.

The Court on November 17 had also taken on record a report filed by the Commission wherein the Commission had admitted that the panel and the waiting list for the posts of 'Group-C' and 'Group-D' had expired on 4th May, 2019. A notification published by the West Bengal Central School Service Commission on September 2, 2019 had also made a similar assertion. However, in spite of the expiry of the panel, 25 appointment letters had been issued by the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education containing reference of recommendations issued by different regions like Western Region, Northern Region, Southern Region and Eastern Region. In this regard, Justice Gangopadhyay had also sought the personal attendance of Secretary of the West Bengal Central Service Commission.

Furthermore, the Court on November 23 had also taken on record the affidavit filed by the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, the contents of which the Court had labelled as 'really surprising'. The Board had apprised the Court that it is in possession of original recommendations issued by the Commission with District Inspector of Schools memo mentioned upon its recommendations and the entire data had been received by them in hard copies. Justice Gangopadhyay had noted that this shows that recommendations came from the Commission, be it West Bengal Central School Service Commission or West Bengal Regional School Service Commission, and accordingly the Board issued the appointment letters.

Case Title: West Bengal Board Of Secondary Education and Anr v. Sandeep Prasad and Ors 

Click Here To Read/Download Order 




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