1 April 2022 6:58 AM GMT
Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the Calcutta High Court on Friday took on record the preliminary report submitted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) pertaining to the 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...
Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the Calcutta High Court on Friday took on record the preliminary report submitted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) pertaining to the 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.
Justice Gangopadhyay on Thursday 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.
On Friday, Additional Solicitor General Y.J Dastoor appearing for the CBI informed the Court 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.
"Mr. S. P. Sinha responded to the call of CBI 8 hours late and reached CBI office at about 11:15 p.m. yesterday and CBI asked him certain questions in respect of the irregularities and illegalities in giving appointment to the post of Group D staff, which is the subject-matter of this writ application, till 2:30 a.m. today", the Court recorded in the order.
Pursuant to the perusal of the preliminary report, Justice Gangopadhyay directed the petitioner to immediately implead the CBI as a party to the present proceedings.
"CBI is made a party in this writ application. I direct the learned advocate of the petitioners to add CBI a party respondent in this proceeding here and now", the Court ordered.
Furthermore, the counsel appearing for S.P. Sinha apprised the Court that an appeal has been filed to the order of Court dated March 31, 2022 directing for a CBI probe before a Bench comprising Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee. The counsel further informed the Court that the hearing of the appeal is set to take place at 12 noon today and accordingly he prayed before the Court to defer the hearing.
Refusing to accede to such a request, Justice Gangopadhyay orally remarked, "Unless my hands are tied, I will proceed".
The Court also took on record a second 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, the Court 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 (S.E.) was also ordered to take immediate steps to ensure compliance of such an order.
"The persons against whom allegations have been made and in respect of whom the Commission has stated in their affidavit that they were never recommended by the Commission and in respect of whom it has been alleged that they are working in different schools as Group D staff, the salary of all such persons shall not be paid any further. They shall not be treated as candidates recommended by the Commission. They shall not be allowed to enter into the schools as Group D staff of the said schools. Further orders in respect of their illegal appointment and other aspects would be passed later and now I direct the concerned District Inspectors of Schools (S.E.) to take immediate steps for complying with the order passed by this court", the Court directed further.
Pertinently, Justice Gangopadhyay 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.
Directing the CBI to immediately call the members of the High Powered Committee for questioning within the course of the day, the Court observed,
"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."
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."
Justice Gangopadhyay also made it clear that the interrogation of S.P Sinha would continue in the meantime until the CBI thinks that he is not required to be questioned any further. He also granted liberty to the CBI to question any other person regardless of their political or social status if the need arises.
The Court also ordered that all official records should be handed over to the CBI with immediate effect to aid in their investigation.
Accordingly, the Court directed the CBI as well as the Principal Secretary of School Education Department to file a short report recording compliance of the order on the next date of hearing which is slated to take place on April 4 at 10:30 am.
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. The 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.
Case Title: Laxmi Tunga v. The State of West Bengal & Ors
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