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Calcutta HC orders CBI probe into Bengal school recruitment irregularities

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Kolkata, Nov 22: The Calcutta High Court on Monday ordered an enquiry by the CBI into alleged irregularities in the appointment of Group D staff in aided/sponsored schools under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) on purported recommendations by the state's School Service Commission (SSC) and to find out whether any money trail was involved.

Calcutta HC orders CBI probe into Bengal school recruitment irregularities

The order was passed on a petition by some job aspirants, claiming that appointments were given to persons after the expiry of the panel proposed for the posts of Group D staff in aided/sponsored secondary and higher secondary schools in the state. Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay directed "the director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to constitute a committee, headed by an officer not below the rank of a joint director, with officers not below the rank of DIG to initiate the enquiry".

The court said that it is expected that no person will be left out of this enquiry. Justice Gangopadhyay directed that CBI should also "enquire a very important part of this serious illegality and irregularity as to whether there is any money trail in issuance of such recommendation letters and subsequent issuance of appointment letters to the persons". The court directed the CBI to file a preliminary report on December 21, when further orders in the matter will be passed.

The matter will come up for hearing again on December 24, the court said. "I observe that the miscreants, there must be some persons behind this whole corrupt affair, whatever be their position in the society or in the polity, cannot be really political persons - they can take shelter under different political parties," the judge said. The court directed the CBI to look into the extreme irregularity in these appointments from that angle as well.

"Corruption writ large in the whole process of this public employment which is required to be dealt with in a firm hand," it observed. The petitioners had initially produced before the court a list of 25 appointees, but later claimed that more than 500 additional such appointments were made. The WBBSE claimed that all the appointments were given on the basis of recommendations by the SSC. But the commission submitted an affidavit before the court stating that after May 4, 2019, when the panel of Group D staff had expired, no recommendation letter was issued by it.

"Without showing any disrespect to the police force of this State, I am passing this order giving the responsibility to the CBI only for the reason that both the authorities, the Commission and the Board, as also the police authority are controlled by the State," Justice Gangopadhyay said in his order. The court said that this is a matter of the Education Department which is a state department and in such matters to instill confidence in the public as to the fairness in the appointment in posts for which money from the public exchequer would be spent, there should be an enquiry by an impartial agency.

Counsels for the state submitted that any retired judge of the high court or more than one retired judge may be engaged to inquire into the matter. The commission's lawyer also supported the proposition. "However, after getting the affidavit of the Board today, I find that CBI enquiry (not any investigation at this stage) is required to identify the miscreants in this matter by whom some letters of recommendations were issued and the Board acted on that," the court said. The SSC in its affidavit before the court had stated that no such recommendation letters were issued by them to the WBBSE.

The court had then directed the WBBSE to file an affidavit as to the source on the basis of which it issued appointment letters to those 25 candidates. Observing that the content of WBBSE's affidavit, filed on Monday, was surprising, the court said that it has stated that it is in possession of original recommendations issued by the SSC. The WBBSE said that the entire data was received by them in hard copies and in soft copy of those 25 candidates in question and also all other recommendations made by the commission for Group-D posts between December, 2019 and February, 2020 and they declared that they can produce it if it is required.

The court also directed the petitioners to file before the court on November 24 a tabular list annexing the recommendation letters or appointment letters of 542 persons which they claimed to have come into their procession, indicating the names of those persons, the dates of recommendations and dates of their appointment letters. Justice Gangopadhyay directed that a copy of the list and copies of all other affidavits used in this matter, including the writ application be handed over to the advocate of the CBI. The court ordered that the 542 persons whose names have been disclosed on Monday are added as party respondents in the matter. PTI

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