1 April 2022 9:04 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Friday stayed a Single Judge's order directing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a probe into 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 West Bengal School...
The Calcutta High Court on Friday stayed a Single Judge's order directing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a probe into 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 West Bengal School Service Commission (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.
In the impugned order dated March 31, Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay had directed the regional head of the CBI to call upon S.P. Sinha, former Advisor of the WBSSC in course of the day and start questioning him. The CBI had been directed to initiate the interrogation by midnight.
Subsequently, on Friday Additional Solicitor General Y.J Dastoor appearing for the CBI informed Justice Gangopadhyay that Sinha had been questioned by the CBI last night between 11:15 pm to 2:30 am. He further filed before the Court a preliminary report in a sealed cover containing the responses of Sinha to questions posed by the CBI.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee was informed by the concerned counsels that an inquiry Committee headed by Justice Ranjit Kumar Bagh, former judge of the High Court is looking into the issue of illegal appointments of group-D employees and that the Committee has directed Sinha to appear before it on April 5.
Opining that there is a likelihood of conflicting findings if two parallel proceedings are allowed to proceed simultaneously, the Court directed the CBI to not register any FIR against Sinha or interrogate him any further until the next date of hearing that is slated to take place on April 4.
"..if these two parallel proceedings are allowed to run simultaneously there is likelihood of conflict of findings and also having regard to the fact that the original documents relating to such alleged illegal appointments are presently lying in the custody of the learned Registrar General of this court in terms of the order passed by the Regular Bench, the Central Bureau of Investigation shall not register any first information report against the present appellant nor they will put appellant for further interrogation, if any, till Monday next, that is, April 4, 2022."
The Court further noted that in the absence of documents which are currently in the custody of the Court, the CBI will not be in a position to effectively interrogate the appellant. It was further underscored that Justice Gangopadhyay's earlier order for a CBI probe had been stayed by the Regular Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta and is thus binding on Justice Gangopadhyay.
"We also have taken into consideration that CBI investigation has been stayed by the Regular Bench in respect of Gr. D employees and unless the said order is varied or set aside it is binding on the learned Single Judge", the Court opined.
The Court further observed that such an interim relief is granted despite the matter not being before the Regular Bench as a refusal to pass such an interim relief may render the appeal infructuous. Accordingly, the Court ordered the application of stay to be listed before the Regular Bench on April 4.
"We pass this interim order as this bench is not the regular bench and it requires deeper consideration of the issues raised in the appeal. The appellant has made out prima facie and arguable case on merits for which the appellant at this stage is entitled to an ad interim relief till Monday, i.e. April 4, 2022 as the refusal to pass such relief at this stage may render the appeal infructuous", the order read further.
Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay's orders
Justice Gangopadhyay in the impugned order had directed the CBI to interrogate S.P. Sinha, former advisor of the Commission, by opining that he is 'one of the kingpins of this corruption'.
"In such circumstances a thorough probe is required to bust the racket of giving illegal appointments. I have found from other similar matters that the said Dr. Santi Prasad Sinha as one of the kingpins of this corruption of giving illegal public appointment. Hence, I direct the regional head of the Central Bureau of Investigation to call Mr. S. P. Sinha in course of the day and start questioning him. The CBI is directed to initiate the said interrogation in course of the day - I mean by 12 midnight today", the impugned order stated.
Earlier in the day on Friday, Justice Gangopadhyay had been informed by the counsel appearing for Sinha that a Division Bench is set to hear an appeal against his order for a CBI probe at 12 noon and thus the counsel had sought for a deferment of the hearing.
However, Justice Gangopadhyay refused to accede to such a request by remarking "Unless my hands are tied, I will proceed".
Pertinently, Justice Gangopadhyay on Friday directed the CBI to call for questioning all members of the High Powered Committee which had been constituted in 2016 by the Education Department of the West Bengal government to oversee the recruitment of close to 13,000 non-teaching staff in government-aided schools. After the panel was dissolved last year, allegations of irregular recruitment had surfaced.
The 5 members of the High Powered Committee were- S. P. Sinha, Advisor to the West Bengal Central School Service Commission - the Convenor, S. Acharya, Personal Secretary to Minister in Charge of the Department, P. K. Bandyopadhyay, OSD to the MIC of Education Department, A. K. Sarkar, Deputy Director (GA Section), Directorate of School Education Department, T. Panja, Senior Law Officer of the department.
"I direct the CBI to take steps forthwith to call the above persons for asking questions in respect of this illegal appointment scam in public employment and they are to be called in the course of the day. When they will be questioned, will be decided by the CBI. I am not giving any guideline to that effect, but they are to be called in course of the day and they are directed to attend the office of the CBI as soon as they will be called by the CBI", Justice Gangopadhyay ordered.
The Court further underscored that non-compliance of such a direction would be viewed seriously and accordingly remarked, "This order on those persons is mandatory and any non-compliance with this order will be viewed very seriously by this court against the persons who will fail to attend the office of the CBI as soon as they are called."
The Court also took on record a further status report filed by the WBSSC wherein it has been stated that none of the 98 candidates who are currently working as Group-D staff in different State run schools had been recommended by the WBSSC.
Accordingly, Justice Gangopadhyay directed that the salary of all such illegally appointed Group-D staff should be immediately stopped and that they should not be allowed to enter the school premises wherein they are currently serving any further. The District Inspector of Schools was also ordered to take immediate steps to ensure compliance of such an order.
He has also listed the matter for further hearing on April 4 at 10:30am.
It may be noted that Justice Gangopadhyay on Wednesday took strong objection to the direction issued by the Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta to take on record the affidavit of assets that is to be filed by S.P. Sinha, former SSC advisor, in a 'sealed cover'. Recording serious displeasure against such an order by the Division Bench, Justice Gangopadhyay had observed,
"I do not know what this court will do with a sealed cover in this proceeding when the hand of this appeal court has been tied by the above observation. I have been prevented from taking any consequential step on going through the said affidavit of assets."
This development comes after a series of orders issued by Justice Gangopadhyay directing for a CBI probe have been stayed or quashed by the Division Bench pertaining to the alleged recruitment scam. A Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta had earlier quashed Justice Gangopadhyay's order which had directed the CBI to conduct a probe into the alleged recruitment scam.
Subsequently, the Division Bench had again imposed a stay for 2 weeks on Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay's order wherein a similar CBI probe had been ordered into the alleged recruitment scam. Thereafter, the Division Bench had extended the interim order granting stay for a period of 4 weeks after noting that the record reflects a 'shocking state of affairs' pertaining to the alleged illegal recruitments.
The Division Bench had also up an inquiry committee headed by Justice Ranjit Kumar Bagh, former judge of the Calcutta High Court to probe into the recruitment scam. 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.
Also Read: SSC 'Group D' Recruitment Scam| Calcutta HC Directs CBI To Interrogate Members Of State Constituted Recruitment Panel By Today, Appeal Filed Before Division Bench
Case Title: Dr. Santi Prasad Sinha v. Laxmi Tunga & ors
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 103
Click Here To Read/Download Order