The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday upheld orders of a single bench that directed CBI to inquire into alleged irregularities in appointments of Group-C posts (non-teaching staff) in the state government-run schools in West Bengal on the purported recommendation of the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC).
The Court had reserved its judgment in the matter on Friday.
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 even after the expiry of the panel.
A Division Bench had earlier set 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.
A Bench comprising Justice Ananda Kumar Mukherjee and Justice Subrata Talukdar on the last date of hearing had been apprised by the Court appointed committee that 381 appointments for Group-C posts in the state government-run schools in West Bengal were made illegally. Furthermore, the committee had recommended criminal proceedings against four ex-state SSC officials and the incumbent president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. It had also sought disciplinary proceedings against six other former senior SSC officials.
The Court on Wednesday labelled the "irregularities" in the appointments made by the SCC as a "public scam" and accordingly upheld Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay's prior orders directing a CBI probe into the alleged money trail involved in the recruitment scam.
"This Court also does not find that the Hon'ble Single Bench erred in appointing the CBI to investigate the public scam inasmuch as no State agency could be appointed in a scenario involving high ranking Officials, including a senior State Minister", the Court underscored.
Furthermore, the Court also accepted the recommendations put forward by the Court appointed committee calling for the prosecution of senior government officials connected to the scam.
Opining further that such a scam has let down a generation of teachers, the Court observed,
"It is a matter of shame that such abundant facts have emerged in the records of the Hon'ble Court and from the Bag Committee, whose integrity has not been impeached, prima facie establishing the role of white collared individuals in charge of Education in letting down a generation of teachers and the taught."
Accordingly, the Court ordered the following directives,
A. The Reports of the Bag Committee are prima facie accepted and be now placed before the Hon'ble Single Bench.
B.The orders impugned of the Hon'ble Single Bench require no intervention.
C.The Hon'ble Single Bench shall be entitled to direct investigation and collection of further facts, including any money trail, as considered necessary.
D.The Hon'ble Single Bench will extend the opportunity to be heard to the appellants at a stage, at a time and on factors considered appropriate.
The Court further accepted the resignation tendered by the Chairman of the Bag Committee, Justice R. K. Bag, retired judge of the Calcutta High Court and consequently observed that the Court appointed Committee stands dissolved and its members discharged of their responsibilities for the present.
The Court appointed committee had earlier submitted its report in the court on alleged irregularities in the appointments of Group-D staff in State government run schools. Furthermore, the Court had earlier extended a stay for five weeks on an order of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay that had the then Education Minister Partha Chatterjee to appear before the CBI for interrogation pertaining to the alleged recruitment scam.
Case Title: Dr Santi Prasad Sinha v. Laxmi Tunga and other connected matters
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 186