4 April 2022 1:45 PM GMT
Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the Calcutta High Court on Monday ordered 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...
Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the Calcutta High Court on Monday ordered 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 office of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by 4 pm on Monday.
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).
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 Friday had directed the CBI to call for questioning all members of the High Powered Committee within the course of the day. However, the members of the Committee did not appear before the CBI on Friday on the ground that a Division Bench was scheduled to hear their appeals 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.
Directing the police authorities to ensure the presence of 4 members of the High Powered Committee before the CBI, the Court ordered,
"..I find that Sri S. Acharya and Sri P. K. Bandyopadhyay are working in Shilpa Sadan, 6th floor, 4, Abanindranath Tagore Sarani, Kolkata-700016 and as Sri A. K. Sarkar is residing in Falguni Abasan, Block-FB, Sector-III, Salt Lake and Sri T. Panja is working now as the Senior Law Officer in School Education Department, Government of West Bengal, Bikash Bhawan, 5th Floor, I direct the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Kolkata Police to ensure the presence of Mr. S. Acharya and Mr. P. K. Bandyopadhyay before CBI by 3 p.m. today and I direct the Commissioner of Bidhan Nagar Police Commissionerate to take steps for ensuring the presence of Sri A. K. Sarkar and Sri T. Panja who are residing and working, respectively in Salt Lake, which is under the Commissioner of Police, Bidhan Nagar Commissionerate. Their presence are also to be ensured by the Commissioner of Police of Bidhan Nagar Commissionerate by 4 p.m. today."
The petitioner as well as the Registrar General of the High Court were directed to communicate the order to the concerned Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) and to the Commissioner of Police of Bidhan Nagar Police Commissionerate.
Justice Gangopadhyay further observed that he had made it clear vide order dated April 1, 2022 that any violation of the Court's order would be viewed very seriously. Expressing displeasure at the conduct of the concerned members of the High Powered Committee for not appearing before the CBI on Friday, the Court underscored,
"They have flouted the order of this court for reasons best known to them. Therefore, this court has been compelled to pass the above order. Other adverse order may be passed against them for violation of the court's order."
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 Monday i.e. on April 4.
However, on Monday, the regular Division Bench comprising Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta 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, the matters were listed before two more Division Bench's who also declined to hear the appeals- one comprising Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharya and the other comprising Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee.
The matters were finally reassigned to the Division Bench comprising Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Bivas Pattanayak. This Division Bench is slated to hear the appeals tomorrow.
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."
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.
Case Title: Laxmi Tunga & Ors v. The State of West Bengal & Ors.
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 106
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