A single-judge bench of the Calcutta high court and a retired-judge-led committee appointed by a division bench over the past six months have unearthed at least 609 illegal appointments in group D employees’ posts, 381 in clerical (group-C) posts, and an undetermined number of posts for assistant teachers for classes IX and X at government-sponsored and aided schools in West Bengal during 2019-20.
It began in August and September last year, when job seekers Sandeep Prasad (Sanjay Kumar), Sabina Yasmin (Salman Khan), and Setab Uddin (Salman Khan) filed petitions in the Calcutta high court alleging anomalies in recruitments in three categories. As the session progressed, the judge continued asking for further papers, and other petitioners came up to provide additional instances.
In its May 18 order, a Calcutta high court division bench said that “serious irregularities” had been noted and recorded by the single-judge bench that ordered investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with as many as seven cases between November 22, 2021, and April 14, 2022, and that the single-judge bench’s orders were upheld. On May 20, the Central Bureau of Probe (CBI) ordered its seventh investigation.
As a consequence of the court-mandated termination of individuals who obtained their positions unlawfully, they have also been required to repay every rupee they have earned in wages since their appointment, as well as face the CBI to explain how they were able to do so. Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders Partha Chatterjee and Paresh Adhikary have previously been questioned by the CBI many times.
On May 18, a division bench of Justices Subrata Talukdar and Ananda Kumar Mukherjee labelled the West Bengal Central School Service Commission (WBCSSC, generally referred to as the SSC) a “public fraud” and summoned numerous past and current WBCSSC officials for questioning. By July 7, Ankita Adhikary would have to refund 41 months of salary to the government in two instalments after losing her teaching position as well.
The court-appointed committee has also recommended criminal actions (registration of an FIR) against the former SSC chairman and secretary as well as the former WBSEB president for disciplinary action and several others for criminal proceedings (registration of FIR).
After the Sarada chit fund scam in 2013, the SSC recruitment fraud has become the second-largest of its sort during the TMC reign of 11 years. The Narada cash-for-favour scandal of 2016, according to political watchers and the opposition, is much greater than this one. Many benches of the Calcutta high court, on the other hand, believe that what has been brought to light may just be the top of the iceberg.
Unlike the Saradha and Narada scams, the SSC recruitment scam was uncovered in large part because of the zeal and persistence of the Calcutta high court bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay, whose orders were initially stayed by one division bench but finally upheld in a 115-page judgement on May 18 by Justices Talukdar and Mukherjee.
Since Justice Gangopadhyay passed an order criticising a division bench for staying his order, and his letter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) asking for intervention regarding the staying of his orders, the high court’s premises have seen a lot of storm and drama over the last three months – from multiple division, benches declining to hear appeals against Justice Gangopadhyay’s orders to pro-TMC lawyers boycotting his court for the boycott.
“The orders impugned of the hon’ble single bench require no intervention,” the division bench of Justices Talukdar and Mukherjee said on May 18, and added, “the single bench shall be entitled to direct investigation and collection of further facts, including any money trail, as considered necessary.”
Prior to this, Justice Gangopadhyay had granted the CBI broad latitude to question any important figure they saw suitable, including the option of detaining suspects if required. He has previously said that he will keep a careful eye on the work of the CBI. Despite the fact that Chatterjee filed a special leave petition with the Supreme Court on May 19 in an attempt to overturn the ruling, the case has yet to be heard.
He also requested that Chatterjee be named a respondent in four additional instances, since he doubted that Chatterjee was aware of the improper appointments made by the government officials. According to the judge, Chatterjee approved the formation of a five-member group, which included the minister’s officer on special duty (OSD) and private secretary. In addition, the CBI has requested a copy of Chatterjee’s bank account information. Santi Prasad Sinha, a retired mathematician, is the committee’s convener, and he is still the court’s kingpin.