15 Feb 2022 11:35 AM GMT
A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday imposed a stay for 2 weeks on a Single Bench's order which had directed 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...
A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday imposed a stay for 2 weeks on a Single Bench's order which had directed 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 Central School Service Commission (WBSSC).
The impugned order had been passed by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay earlier on Tuesday despite the fact that a Division Bench of the High Court had quashed Justice Gangopadhyay's earlier order wherein a similar CBI probe had been ordered into the alleged recruitment scam.
Advocate General S.N Mookherjee had moved the Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta against the impugned order and had further apprised the Court that the impugned order has virtually negated the order of the Division Bench passed earlier. He further submitted that the impugned order has totally shattered the judicial discipline that is required to be adhered to.
The Division Bench observed that a prima facie case has been made out for staying the operation of the impugned order and accordingly observed,
"There shall be a stay of operation of the impugned order dated 15th February, 2022 as well as the Writ petition, for a period of two weeks from date or until further order/orders of this Court, whichever is earlier."
Opining that the Single Bench had 're-imposed the earlier order' which had been set aside, the Division Bench further remarked,
"It appears that despite the said order having passed, the single Bench has dissolved the said Committee constituted by the Division Bench and re-imposed the earlier order which was set aside by the Division Bench when the direction was made to the Central Bureau of Investigation to make an enquiry."
The Division Bench had also earlier set up an inquiry committee headed by Justice Ranjit Kumar Bagh, former judge of the Calcutta High Court. 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.
On Tuesday, Justice Gangopadhyay vide the impugned order had expressed displeasure at the functioning of the inquiry committee constituted by the Division Bench and accordingly proceeded to dissolve the inquiry committee. The CBI had also been directed to submit a preliminary inquiry report in this regard by March 16, 2022.
The Division Bench on Tuesday further noted in its order that the counsels representing the inquiry committee had submitted that due to the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the process of inquiry could not be activated at the required pace. However, the Bench noted that substantial progress had been made despite the adversity.
The matter is slated to be heard next on February 21.
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.
Last week, Justice Gangopadhyay had directed the concerned District Inspectors of Schools to not pay any further salary to 573 candidates who had allegedly been appointed for the post of 'Group-D' (non-teaching staff) in sponsored Secondary and Higher Secondary schools under the WBBSE despite no such recommendation by the WBSSC. It had been further ordered that the salary already paid to the 573 candidates must be recovered from from them by using the relevant laws, both civil and criminal.
Justice Gangopadhyay had also come down heavily on the inquiry committee for the delay in filing of the inquiry report and had further observed with dismay that none of the committee members or none on behalf of the committee were present before the Court during the hearing. He had further directed the inquiry committee to file an interim report by February 14, 2022 as to the stage they have proceeded in inquiry of the corruption and the angle of money trail, if any, till date.
"The appeal court mandated the committee to file the report by two months from the date of the order of the appeal court. The order of the appeal court was passed on 6th December, 2021. Today we are on 9th February, 2022. Although the said mandatory period of two months have elapsed, not only no inquiry report has been submitted before this court but also nobody of the committee, or on behalf of the committee, did care to appear before this court. This non-appearance is taken very very seriously by this court", Justice Gangopadhyay had observed.
Subsequently, the Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta extended the time granted to the inquiry committee to submit its report by 4 months. Pertinently, the Division Bench also expunged the adverse remarks made by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay in his order dated February 9 against the inquiry committee pursuant to the request made by the concerned counsels.
The Court on November 17, 2021 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, 2021 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.
Also Read: SSC 'Group-D' Recruitment Scam: Calcutta HC Orders CBI Probe Despite Division Bench's Earlier Order Quashing Such A Probe; Appeal Filed Before Division Bench
Case Title: State of West Bengal v. Sandeep Prasad
Click Here To Read/Download Order