On May 12, the Calcutta High Court dismissed the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal Government’s review petition against transferring the probe in the West Bengal Municipality Recruitment Scam to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“The Court is convinced that in the facts and circumstances of the instant case, the petition for review must fail and is, accordingly, dismissed,” said the Calcutta High Court.
The Calcutta High Court said, “The Court is of the opinion that, the State including its departments, ought to cooperate with the investigating agencies and ensure that the investigation that is continuing reaches a logical conclusion at the earliest, so that the offenders can be booked and appropriately dealt with in accordance with law.”
“The same will in return ensure to the advantage of the State authorities in identifying the persons involved in the racket of job in-lieu-of cash and the administration of the State may continue smoothly. The State authorities ought to actively assist the investigating authorities currently handling the matter, so as to free the State from the illegalities in the process of recruitment in various departments of the State,” the Calcutta High Court added.
The court noted, “No prejudice has been caused to the State by directing the CBI and ED to investigate the matter as the aforesaid investigating authorities are already investigating the scam relating to recruitment in educational institutions and the investigation has proceeded to a considerable extent. There ought not to be separate investigating authorities for investigating the connected offence which has come to light in course of the investigation.”
“As several persons involved in the recruitment scam relating to schools are also involved in the recruitment scam in connection with municipalities and the proceeds of crime are intermingling with each other, there is no scope to segregate the investigation and the investigation is liable to be proceeded by the agency/agencies investigating the same,” added the Calcutta High Court.
“The genesis of the scam was revealed while dealing with education matters relating to primary schools. In the course of investigation of the scam in connection with schools, the scam relating to recruitment in municipalities was unearthed. To conclude the investigation of the original scam, the scam relating to municipalities is also required to be taken note of and investigated accordingly,” the court noted.
The Calcutta High Court said, “In view of the assignment of the review petition by the Hon’ble the Chief Justice, this Bench is presently seized with the jurisdiction to entertain the issue of the writ petition as well as any matter relating to municipalities. By this way, the procedural error, if any, stands cured.”
Furthermore, the Calcutta High Court said that the West Bengal Government ought to appreciate the reason why the court granted leave to ED on an urgent basis as the court was concerned with the nature of the allegation made in the ED’s application.
The court noted that an “investigation is under process involving highly influential individuals, politicians, ministers of the ruling party, popular film stars etc. and the amount of cash, documents/electronic evidences recovered at the time of investigation clearly implies that there are every chances of destroying/removing/tampering the evidences, threatening/terrorising the witnesses which may interfere with the process of investigation.”
“Each and every step in the investigation process is extremely vital and any delay in taking action in proper time may result in a faulty investigation which may later turn out to be fatal. In such a situation, not passing any order on the application on emergency basis, would have led to severe miscarriage of justice. The same would have adverse effect on the investigation itself,” the court added.
The West Bengal Government filed the review petition seeking the review of the Calcutta High Court’s order dated April 21, 2022, wherein the court directed to transfer the probe to the CBI on the basis of the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) application. The ED submitted that while investigating the ‘Teachers Appointment Scam’, the agency came across the ‘Municipality Recruitment Scam’ in the state which got intermingled as there are common agents and common beneficiaries with the victim in both cases being the ‘common people at large.’
The West Bengal Government challenged the Calcutta High Court’s order on various grounds. The government claimed that the impugned order was passed without jurisdiction as the bench was assigned to decide matters relating to primary education.
The West Bengal Government argued, “As the Hon’ble Bench did not have any jurisdiction to take up matters relating to municipalities, accordingly, the Court could not have passed any direction to cause investigation in connection with recruitment in the municipalities.” The West Bengal Government also contented that law and order is a state subject and therefore, the investigation ought to be made by the state’s agency and not the CBI.