On June 15, the Calcutta High Court dismissed an appeal filed by the Trinamool Congress-led (TMC) West Bengal government against a CBI investigation into the Municipality Recruitment Scam, which was uncovered while investigating the West Bengal Teachers’ Recruitment Scam.
The Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court, comprising Justices Tapabrata Chakraborty and Partha Sarathi Chatterjee, observed, “In the present case, the subject matter is a scam of extraordinary dimension and the money trail and exchange of monetary considerations for giving appointments have extended to selection process of education as well as municipality.”
The court noted that the allegations in the case are “neither skirmishes nor bald, but speak of overt acts indicating complicity among the Ministers and high placed government officials.” Furthermore, the agencies seized and attached “a mammoth amount of Rs. 111 crores and gold and jewellery valued at Rs. 5.08 crores” during the investigation.
The court referred to the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) report and said that it “paints a rather disquieting picture. The court noted that the alleged perpetrators of corruption in the Teachers’ Recruitment Scam have “concocted a larger nefarious scheme of manipulating the recruitment process across various municipalities” in West Bengal. The court noted that the ED unearthed such details during their investigation while investigating money laundering concerning the Teachers’ Recruitment Scam. The court further noted that the ED’s investigation into the teachers’ scam led to the discovery of similar scams involving “common agents of corruption.”
The court said, “In other words, there is ample indication to suggest that these two instances of crime are bound by a common thread and together, they form a larger body of crime associated with recruitment in various government bodies and/or institutions.”
The court noted that the discovery of the Municipality Recruitment Scam is “unmistakably” traced to ongoing investigations into the teachers’ recruitment scam. The court said, “Therefore, given the similar nature of offence and involvement of common perpetrators, the learned Single Judge’s direction of CBI inquiry, into the alleged irregularities pertaining to appointments by municipalities, would ensure a logical conclusion to the ongoing investigations and serve the interest of justice.”
The court said, “Such investigation cannot be scuttled on a purported plea that the learned Court had no jurisdiction to direct CBI investigation in recruitment of municipality since it was having determination over Group-II matters. The wide language of Article 226 of the Indian Constitution has conferred upon High Courts, ample power to reach injustice wherever found.”
The court further said that the “menace of corruption” has accorded the “undeserved with an unfair advantage over the deserved and deepened the societal chasm between haves and have-nots.” The court added, “This in turn, has precipitated widespread dejection and disillusionment among general masses. The collective suffering of those who have been wronged by the malevolent activities of morally debased individuals, necessitates urgency in action.”
The court said while dismissing the TMC government’s plea, “An uninterrupted and conclusive investigation into the connected schemes of corruption is the only means by which the perpetrators can be brought to justice.” Thereafter, the court said it is not inclined to interfere with the Calcutta High Court’s earlier order dated April 21, 2023, which ordered the CBI probe.
TMC Repeatedly Resisting Probe
Notably, this is not the first attempt made by the Trinamool Congress government to resist the CBI/ED probe into the Teachers’ Recruitment Scam or the Municipality Recruitment Scam. On May 12, the court dismissed the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government’s review petition against the transfer of probe into the Municipality Recruitment Scam to the CBI.
The court said, “The Court is convinced that in the facts and circumstances of the instant case, the petition for review must fail and is, accordingly, dismissed.” Furthermore, the court directed the State government to cooperate with the investigating agencies to ensure that the investigation reached a logical conclusion with offenders booked and dealt with in accordance with the law. “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 court said.
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.”
“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.