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Division Bench Of Calcutta HC Recuses From Hearing Single Judge's Order For CBI Probe In SSC 'Group D' Recruitment Scam

Aaratrika Bhaumik
4 April 2022 5:39 AM GMT
Division Bench Of Calcutta HC Recuses From Hearing Single Judges Order For CBI Probe In SSC Group D Recruitment Scam
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A Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta of the Calcutta High Court on Monday recused from hearing a batch of petitions pertaining to 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...

A Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta of the Calcutta High Court on Monday recused from hearing a batch of petitions pertaining to 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).

This comes days after a single judge Bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay had passed scathing remarks against the Division Bench of Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta. 

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.

On Friday, a Division Bench comprising Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee had stayed Justice Gangopadhyay's order directing 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 Division Bench had granted such an interim relief until the Regular Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta hears the matter 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 Court had ordered

On Monday, the Regular Division Bench informed senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya representing the illegally recruited candidates that they were recusing from hearing all the cases pertaining to the alleged recruitment scam on their personal ground. 

"We are not inclined to take up the matter on our personal ground", Justice Harish Tandon orally remarked while speaking on behalf of the Bench. 

Thereafter, by order of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava all the matters were listed before a Division Bench headed by Justice T.S. Sivagnanam and subsequently before a Division Bench headed by Justice Soumen Sen. 

However, the matters were finally reassigned to the Division Bench comprising Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Bivas Pattanayak. The Division Bench headed by Justice Joymalya Bagchi is slated to hear the appeals tomorrow. 

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 had refused to accede to such a request by remarking "Unless my hands are tied, I will proceed".

Pertinently, Justice Gangopadhyay on Friday had 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 had ordered.

The Court had further underscored that non-compliance of such a direction would be viewed seriously and had 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."

Background

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: Calcutta High Court Stays Single Judge Order For CBI Probe In SSC 'Group D' Recruitment Scam

Case Title: Dr. Santi Prasad Sinha v. Laxmi Tunga & ors


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