Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court (HC) has ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the alleged irregularities in the recruitment of teachers in government-aided primary schools by the West Bengal’s primary education board in 2014.
The court also declared the appointment of 269 teachers who had qualified for the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) in an unfair manner void.
Directing the CBI to file a first information report on Monday, Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay ordered: “In view of the illegality committed in respect of the second panel (termed as the additional panel by the secretary of the Board), which is wholly illegal and giving illegal appointment to 269 candidates by a queer method unknown to law, I direct the Central Bureau of Investigation to start an investigation by registering a case immediately against the Board.”
Acting on a petition filed by an examinee Ramesh Malik, Justice Gangopadhyay further directed the CBI to interrogate West Bengal Board of Primary Education president Manik Bhattacharya and secretary Ratna Chakraborty Bagchi and ordered them to be present at the probe agency’s office at Nizam Palace by 5.30 pm the same day.
Reportedly, both Bhattacharya, an MLA of the ruling Trinamool Congress, and Chakraborty Bagchi appeared before the CBI on Monday and were questioned for more than four hours. The HC also said that the CBI can take the accused into custody for interrogation.
According to the petition, the 269 candidates were given an additional one number for a wrong question out of around 23 lakh aspirants. Malik alleged that a second panel with the names of these 269 candidates was published in 2017, Live Law further reported. Maintaining that the second panel was illegal, the HC declared their appointment of these teachers void, ordered a freeze on their salaries and directed that they should be barred from their respective places of work.
The court also ordered that the case history of the ‘scam’ will be preserved by the National Informatics Centre.
Interestingly soon after the verdict, chief minister Mamata Banerjee met Chief Justice Harish Tandon at his home for more than half-an-hour.
The TET was conducted on October 11, 2015, the merit list was announced in 2016 and the appointment process started soon. A total of 42,000 candidates had received appointment letters. When a second merit list was announced in 2017, Malik, a resident of Hoogly district’s Arambagh town, knocked the court’s door after acquiring the names of 68 candidates who were appointed according to the second merit list.
The state government hasn’t provided the exact number of candidates who cracked the TET. According to the Primary Teaching Council, 1750000 candidates appeared for 60,000 posts. Besides, the number of qualifying candidates who underwent training to teach at primary schools was not announced either.
The court also took a critical view of the state government’s argument supporting the formation of the second panel. Besides, the court ordered thorough questioning of a para teacher Chandan Mondal, alias Ranjan, of Bagda Block, who acted as a middleman in the recruitment and is absconding.
Former state minister and CBI joint director (East) Upendra Nath Biswas, known for his crucial role in investigating the fodder scam, had alleged that Mondal played a major role in the recruitment scam. Prima facie it appears that Mondal was instrumental in giving jobs in lieu of hefty sums of money. The court also asked Biswas to help the CBI, which was ordered to submit a report to the court in a sealed envelope by June 15.
Last Monday, another examinee filed two petitions in the HC alleging that 87 teachers never took the TET. A total of 738 teachers have been illegally appointed, Soumen Nandi alleged in the second petition.
Senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, representing the petitioners, told the court that the “whole appointment process was corrupt” and huge amounts of money was exchanged to sideline merit.
Advocate Firdous Shamim, who also appeared for the petitioners, told the court that “corruption is involved in every government appointment in the state. “Only proper investigation can lead to the roots of corruption and the culprits,” he said.
The CBI is also probing seven cases of appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff to the state School Service Commission.