On May 18, the Calcutta High Court dismissed Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee’s plea challenging the court’s order permitting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate him in connection to the West Bengal School Jobs for Cash Scam. Furthermore, the court imposed a Rs 25 lakh fine on him.
The court also fined Rs 25 lakhs to another accused who moved the court, alleging that the ED officials were torturing and coercing him to implicate Abhishek Banerjee in the scam.
The Trinamool Congress leader challenged the Calcutta High Court’s April 13 order giving liberty to the CBI and the ED to interrogate him and Kuntal Ghosh in case concerning irregularities in recruiting teaching and non-teaching staff in West Bengal’s government-sponsored and aided schools.
Calcutta High Court Cancels Appoints of About 36,000 Teachers
On May 12, the Calcutta High Court cancelled the appointment of about 36,000 ‘untrained’ primary school teachers who were recruited by the West Bengal Board of Primary Education in 2016. The court held, “The appointment of all 36,000 (thirty six thousand) (more or less) candidates who were untrained at the time of recruitment in 2016 recruitment process conducted by the Board in the post of primary teachers are cancelled for various reasons as have been elaborated above.”
The Calcutta High Court observed that the “gross illegality” in the selection procedure shows that the Board conducted the entire 2016 recruitment process “like affair of a local club” and noted that it is now coming to light with Enforcement Directorate’s investigation that “jobs for primary school teachers were actually sold to some candidates who had the money to purchase the employment.”
The Calcutta High Court said that “corruption of this magnitude was never known in the State of West Bengal.” Furthermore, the court noted, “The former Education Minister, the former President of the Board and a number of middleman through whom the jobs were sold like a commodity are now behind the bars and the CBI and ED investigation is being continued now in full seeing.”
Calcutta High Court Directs Abhishek Banerjee to Cooperate
Earlier on May 8, the Calcutta High Court pulled up Abhishek Banerjee for opposing the court’s earlier order directing a probe into his involvement in the scam. The court asked the TMC leader what was troubling him and why he can’t cooperate with the probe, as ordered.
“If suppose there is an investigation, why can’t you co-operate? What is troubling you? The court has merely ordered for a probe and no one is above an investigation. Let me know what is troubling you? What is the difficulty?” the court asked Abhishek Banerjee’s counsel.
The court further remarked, “You are not above law, stop being extra-apprehensive.” The court’s remark came after Banerjee’s counsel requested an audience from the bench in the proceedings wherein the petitioner sought for the implementation of the court’s April 13 order, passed by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay, directing a CBI and ED probe into the TMC leader’s involvement in the scan.
The court rejected Banerjee’s counsel’s submission that since the order affects his client, then he should be given an opportunity to be heard.
The court said, “In the midst of an investigation, several names might crop up. But that doesn’t mean that each and every person will have to be given notice prior to the probe. All that the person has to do is co-operate with the probe. Please understand, no body is above the law and not even you. So stop giving too much importance.”
Thereafter, Banerjee’s counsel submitted that his client apprehends an adverse action. The court said, “Stop being extra apprehensive. I see nothing against you at least at this stage. Only probe is ordered against a speech. Let them proceed. You have no right to be heard at this stage.”
Furthermore, the counsel contended that if a crime has taken place in the state, then it is a question of law and order then only the state can conduct the probe. “The investigation could be transferred to the CBI or even ED, only in rarest of rare instances and the instant case, as per me, isn’t a rarest of rare case. In fact, the concerned department wasn’t available before the court. Due to government holiday, all public offices were shut that day,” the counsel said.