The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday refused to hear an appeal filed by West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee challenging an order of a single Bench that 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 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.
"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.
Justice Gangopadhyay had further opined that without custodial interrogation, the truth will never come out in respect of the appointment scam although he clarified that whether the persons will be taken into the custody or not is solely the discretion of CBI.
Furthermore, in the impugned order, Justice Gangopadhyay 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'.
"Here I repeat one expectation of mine which in my view will make the system cleaner and also re-set a moral standard followed in parliamentary democracy and was also followed in our country and also we would see a better tomorrow and we all shall have a principled approach towards our life if the then Education Minister Mr. Partha Chatterjee steps down from the cabinet or removed from the cabinet. Therefore, I expect that, though it is not my order or observation or direction but only an expectation for the better tomorrow that the then Education Minister who is now in-charge of other departments will step down or he will be removed from the esteemed position of minister. I will request the Chief Minister and also the Governor of the State to see whether citizens of India including the petitioners before this Court have a right to get a principled approach from the Government and a cleaner environment of society and polity", the impugned order read further.
Justice Gangopadhyay is slated to conduct further hearing on the matter tomorrow i.e. on May 19 at 1pm.
West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee's lawyers had subsequently moved a Division Bench presided by Justice Harish Tandon on Wednesday seeking a stay on the aforementioned single Bench order that directed the Minister to appear before the CBI.
However, the Division Bench refused to hear the plea by stating that since the appeal has not been affirmed or filed in the registry of the court, it cannot hear the prayer.
It may be noted that the Division Bench Justice Subrata Talukder and Justice A K Mukherjee had earlier extended a stay for five weeks on an order of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay that had the then Education Minister Partha Chatterjee to appear before the CBI for interrogation pertaining to the alleged recruitment scam.
Furthermore, earlier on Wednesday, terming "irregularities" in recommending appointments of teaching and non-teaching staff by SSC as a "public scam", the Division Bench ruled that the single Bench of Justice Gangopadhyay was not wrong in ordering a probe into the alleged money trail involved. The Division Bench said the orders of the single Bench require no intervention.
Case Title: Laxmi Tunga v. State of West Bengal and Ors
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 187