The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) made its first arrests in connection with the West Bengal SSC teacher recruitment scam on Wednesday. The agency nabbed a former adviser to the power committee for the recruitment and the ex-secretary of the state’s school service commission. The Enforcement Directorate, which is looking into the money trail in the alleged scam, had arrested sacked cabinet minister Partha Chatterjee and his close aide Arpita Mukherjee on July 23.
But, these were the first arrests by the CBI, which started probing the case after directions from the Calcutta High Court. Former adviser to power committee Shanti Prasad Sinha and ex-secretary of West Bengal Central School Service Commission (WBCSSC) Ashok Saha were both grilled by the CBI several times since the probe began and were taken into custody after hours of questioning.
Agency sources said it was decided to arrest both of them after finding discrepancies in the interrogation. The two were also named in the HC-appointed committee report
According to the CBI, Sinha was the convener of a five-member panel. Both the accused were then lodged in the state’s school service commission, the agency said.
On May 20, after the high court’s directions, the CBI registered a case against five accused and unknown persons. The agency has claimed that the accused conspired and extended undue advantage in the matter of giving appointments to “undeserving and unlisted” candidates to posts of Group-C staff in different schools across the state.
The agency alleged that they collected vacancies of Group C in an unauthorised manner after the recruitment panel expired in May 2019. This was in violation of provisions of the School Service Commission Rules, 2009, it added.
The CBI further alleged that the accused issued recommendations of unsuccessful candidates for such vacancies by issuing fictitious memos of the regional commissions and using scanned signatures of the chairpersons of such commissions without their knowledge.
On the basis of these recommendations, appointment letters were issued bypassing the normal chain of hierarchy and without sending them to the appointment section of the state’s secondary education board, as well as without notifying candidates’ names on the central website for verification of testimonials, the CBI added.
As a result, the CBI said, deserving candidates were denied regular salaried jobs even after the panel’s expiry. Both the accused will be produced before the court.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) parliamentarian Bikash Bhattacharya said, “They are pawns; main culprit is that person who formed this committee. The CBI should arrest the person who has directed the formation of this committee.”
Leader of opposition in the assembly, BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari said, “This is a big racket. Who is behind this, that is to be seen.”
In the high-profile ED case, the agency has claimed that close to Rs 50 crore in cash, gold jewellery and bars have been seized from at least five apartments owned by Mukherjee, besides property documents and a joint company.
Chatterjee and his aide are facing money laundering charges. The two were sent to judicial custody till August 18 after a special court rejected Chatterjee’s bail prayer.
Alongside its ongoing probe into the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) recruitment irregularities, the Enforcement Directorate has started focusing on the primary teachers’ recruitment row as well. On Wednesday, ED sleuths summoned Trinamool Congress MLA and former president of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education (WBBPE), Manik Bhattacharya, for questioning next week. This is the second time that Bhattacharya has received ED summons in this connection. He had already been grilled by the central agency on the matter on August 1.
The Calcutta High Court’s single-judge bench of Justice Avijit Gangopadhyay had ordered the removal of Bhattacharya as WBBPE president while directing for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter. The CBI later roped in the ED in the investigation process, just as it did in the case of the WBSSC scam.
While passing the order for a CBI inquiry, Gangopdhyay had also directed for immediate cancellation of the appointment of 269 candidates as primary teachers and observed that they secured jobs despite not qualifying in the written examination, while some of them did not even appear for the same. He also ordered that the agency sleuths probing the matter cannot be transferred till the time the investigation process is completed.