The Calcutta High Court on Friday dismissed an appeal moved by West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee challenging an order of a single Bench that had directed him to appear before the CBI in connection with the alleged irregularities in appointments of Group-C and Group-D posts (non-teaching staff) in the state government-run schools in West Bengal on the purported recommendation of the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC).
The single Bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay in the impugned order had directed Mr. Chatterjee, who was the State Education Minister when the alleged appointments were made, to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation at its office here before 6 p.m. on Wednesday. He is now the Industry, Commerce and Parliamentary Affairs Minister of the Mamata Banerjee Cabinet.
The single-judge bench had also given liberty to the central agency to take Chatterjee into custody, if needed. Chatterjee has also moved an appeal in the Supreme Court. It is yet to be heard.
"In this matter and in other matters of similar nature as to giving appointment in the post of Group – C and Group – D employees the name of the then Education Minister Mr. Partha Chatterjee has come to light. I also direct said Mr. Partha Chatterjee to attend the C.B.I. office today by 6 P.M. and C.B.I. is directed to start interrogating him and if he does not cooperate in the interrogation, C.B.I. shall have liberty to take him in custody", Justice Gangopadhyay had recorded in the impugned order.
A Bench comprising Justice Ananda Kumar Mukherjee and Justice Subrata Talukdar observed that the issue of CBI investigation in these matters has already been discussed threadbare in a series of appeals and has been upheld previously by the Bench in its order dated May 18, 2022.
It may be noted that the Division Bech vide its order dated May 18, 2022 had labelled the "irregularities" in the appointments made by the Commission as a "public scam" and had accordingly upheld Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay's prior orders directing a CBI probe into the alleged money trail involved in the recruitment scam.
Dismissing the appeal filed by the Minister, the Court on Friday observed,
"First, the issues connected to the nature of the investigation have been already discussed threadbare by this Court in a series of appeals being MAT 490 of 2022 (Dr. Santi Prasad Sinha –Vs- Laxmi Tunga & Ors.) with other similar appeals by a common Judgment and Order of this Court dated 18th May, 2022. This Court therefore finds no reason to sit either in appeal or judicial review of its own Order dated 18th May, 2022 presented in the guise of a separate appeal. This appeal accordingly cannot be argued by the appellant on points already decided by the common and detailed Judgement and Order of this Court dated 18th May, 2022."
The Court further noted that the writ petition out of which the appeal arises, is also a writ petition included in the common order dated May 18, 2022. Accordingly, the Court held that the appellant shall be entitled to raise all the above discussed points before the Single Bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay.
During the proceedings, the counsel appearing for the Minister further sought expungement of Justice's Gangopadhyay observation in the order wherein he had requested Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and also Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to remove minister Partha Chatterjee from the cabinet in order to make the 'system cleaner'.
The counsel appearing for the Minister submitted that the 'expectation' expressed by Justice Gangopadhyay requires to be expunged since the same has the tendency to stigmatise the appellant in society without the investigation having reached a conclusion and even before the grant of an opportunity of hearing to the appellant.
Taking cognisance of the grievance raised, the Court ordered the observations of Justice Gangopadhyay in this regard to be treat as an 'obiter dicta' and accordingly ruled,
"However, with regard to the expression of the expectation by the Hon'ble Single Bench in its Order dated 18th May, 2022, this Court holds the same to be an obiter and hence not binding at this stage."
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
Case Title: Partha Chatterjee v Laxmi Tunga
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 197