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SSC 'Group D' Recruitment Scam| Calcutta High Court Permits CBI To Conduct Custodial Interrogation Of Recruitment Panel Members If Need Arises

Aaratrika Bhaumik
5 April 2022 9:39 AM GMT
SSC Group D Recruitment Scam| Calcutta High Court Permits CBI To Conduct Custodial Interrogation Of Recruitment Panel Members If Need Arises
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The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a custodial interrogation of two members of the State appointed recruitment panel if the need arises. The direction was issued while adjudicating upon a batch of petitions pertaining to the alleged irregularities in the appointment of 'Group-D' (non-teaching staff) in sponsored Secondary and...

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a custodial interrogation of two members of the State appointed recruitment panel if the need arises.

The direction was issued while adjudicating upon a batch of petitions pertaining to 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).

Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay on the last date of hearing had directed the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) and the Commissioner of Police of Bidhan Nagar Police Commissionerate to ensure the presence of 4 members of the High Powered Committee which had been constituted by the State to oversee the recruitment of close to 13,000 non-teaching staff in government-aided schools in the CBI office by 4 pm on Monday.

The 5 members of the High Powered Committee are- 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.

On Tuesday, the Court took on record the status report filed by the CBI containing the responses of the recruitment panel members to the questions posed by the CBI. Pursuant to the perusal of the record, the Court directed the CBI to further interrogate A. K. Sarkar, who was the officer who was in charge of vacancies in the schools.

Opining that Sarkar played a 'very important' role in the scam, the Court ordered, 

"In my view he played an extremely important role in the whole scam as in the whole scam recommendations were made and appointments were given in vacancies, which were beyond the declared vacancy list. This aspect is to be thoroughly investigated. Mr. Sarkar is directed to reply all the questions of CBI properly and correctly. I direct the CBI to register a case in this matter so that they can take all steps required in this matter."

Justice Gangopadhyay further ordered that CBI should also further interrogate S.P. Sinha, former Advisor of the School Service Commission and the Convenor of the Five-Member Committee and accordingly ordered the Officer-in-Charge of the Survey Park Police Station to ensure the presence of Sinha before CBI by 3 p.m on Tuesday. 

It may be noted that a Division Bench comprising Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee had imposed a stay on Justice Gangopadhyay's earlier order by directing the CBI to not register any FIR or call him for interrogation until April 4. 

Directing the police to ensure the presence of Sinha before the CBI, the Court ordered, 

"The Survey Park Police Station particularly its Officer in-charge is directed to ensure the presence of Mr. S. P. Sinha before CBI by 3 p.m. today as the stay order he was enjoying till Monday has not been extended by any court of law."

The Court was further informed by the counsel appearing for Sinha that the Court constituted committee headed by a retired High Court judge had called him for questioning at 1pm today. Despite such a submission, the Court ordered that the CBI can carry out a custodial interrogation of Sinha if the need arises. 

"It is submitted by Mr. Biswaroop Bhattacharya on behalf of Mr. S. P. Sinha that the committee constituted by the court has called him today at 1 p.m. Whatever be the notice and whatever be the order of the committee, he must be present before CBI by 3 p.m. for further interrogation. CBI should start interrogating him from the point they stopped in respect of Mr. S. P. Sinha. If CBI thinks, they can start custodial interrogation of Mr. S. P. Sinha", the Court ordered further. 

The Court further declined to issue any order for further CBI interrogation of rest of the Committee members for today but however directed them to file an affidavit containing details of their assets on the next date of hearing which is slated to take place on April 8 at 3pm. 

"Regarding Mr. Tapas Panja, Pranab Kumar Bandopadhyay and Sukanta Acharya I am not passing any order today for their interrogation by CBI. Further order for their interrogation will be passed at appropriate stage. All the above mentioned four persons shall file their affidavit of assets before this court on Monday (11.04.2022) when this matter will be taken up at 2 p.m."

The Court further directed the CBI to investigate if there exists any money trail. The CBI was further ordered to take the assistance of any police authority including the State Police and the C. R. P. F. to call the 98 illegally recruited candidates in batches to the CBI Office.

The interrogation of the 98 illegally recruited candidates was directed to be started from Tuesday itself and completed within 30 days. 

"I direct all the Superintendents of Police of the concerned districts where those 98 persons reside, to help CBI and to intimate those persons that they have to face CBI investigation. If such persons despite having notice from the end of the CBI do not appear before the CBI, this court will take appropriate steps against them as the order directing them to appear before the CBI is mandatory in nature and this court will take any violation of this order very very seriously and while sending notice by CBI to those persons, a copy of this order should also be sent to them", the Court ordered further. 

During the proceedings, advocate Biswabrata Basu Mallick appearing for the State submitted on instruction from the highest authority without naming the authority that the government is ready to scrap the illegal appointments of all the persons in different schools in Group-D posts.

Opining that for scrapping the illegal appointments, a Court's order is not required, the Justice Gangopadhyay underscored, 

"I have made my mind clear by stating that for scrapping the illegal appointments, court's order is not necessary because in the Statute, namely, West Bengal School Service Commission Act, 1997 in Section 9 (a) and Section 9 (b) it is laid down that such appointments are illegal and are nullity and are of no effect. Therefore, the State can take steps for following the law and for following the law, court's order is not required. Writ Court's interference is required when the statutory authority does not follow the law."

Accordingly, the matter was listed for further hearing on tomorrow i.e. on April 6 at 2pm. 

It may be noted that several Division Benches of the High Court have repeatedly either recused or declined to hear appeals from Justice Gangopadhyay's order for a CBI probe into the alleged recruitment scam. The appeals have been listed today before a bench headed by Justice Subrata Talukdar

Also Read: 'Left Remediless': Lawyer Complains To Calcutta High Court CJ As Yet Another Bench Recuses From Group D Recruitment Scam Case

Case Title: Laxmi Tunga & Ors v. The State of West Bengal & Ors.

Click Here To Read/Download Order 

Click Here To Read/Download Order 



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