Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress (TMC) expelled two of its youth wing leaders — Kuntal Ghosh and Santanu Banerjee — who were arrested by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) for their alleged involvement in the School Service Commission (SSC) scam. The ED, meanwhile, has said that the two worked together to “facilitate illegal selection and appointment of teachers”.
Announcing the expulsion of the two youth wing leaders at a press conference Tuesday, state minister Shashi Panja said: “The party has zero tolerance against corruption. If anyone is implicated in corruption, the onus is on them to prove their innocence.”
The ED arrested Santanu Banerjee on 10 March during interrogation. On 11 March, he was produced before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Kolkata, which remanded him in ED custody till 24 March. Ghosh was arrested in January this year.
Ghosh was the secretary of the party’s state Youth Congress Committee, while Banerjee was vice-president of the All India Trinamool Youth Congress.
In July last year, the party had suspended former minister Partha Chatterjee and removed him from all the party posts following his arrest in the case. Chatterjee’s aide Arpita Mukherjee and TMC MLA Manik Bhattacharya are also in ED custody in the case.
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ED remand copy
Santanu Banerjee’s name figured in the case with Kuntal Ghosh in January.
In the eight-page ED remand copy placed before the special court — that ThePrint has accessed — the central agency has said 41-year-old Santanu Banerjee, a resident of Hooghly district, is an employee of West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited and earns an income of about Rs 2 lakh to 6 lakh per annum.
The ED said it seized incriminating documents and two Apple iPhones — from which the agency extracted chats and photos — during a search at his residential premises on 20 January.
“The properties identified so far and purchased in the name of Santanu Banerjee and his family members and entities are not commensurate with the sources of his income. The properties so acquired… are nothing but the proceeds of crime acquired as a result of criminal activities relating to the scheduled offences under PMLA, 2002.”
“Various candidates as well as party members used to handover documents related to appointment of primary teachers and other related matters to some party leaders and others seeking their favour and for securing jobs,” stated the ED.
According to the ED remand copy, Kuntal Ghosh “had paid an amount of more than Rs 1 crore in cash to Santanu Banerjee for various type of patronage for said illegal activities… Santanu Banerjee and Kuntal Ghosh were working in cahoots in perpetrating the crime of facilitating illegal selection and appointment of teachers”.
Tapas Mondal, a close aide of TMC MLA and former president of West Bengal Board of Primary Education Manik Bhattacharya, arrested in the case last month, also revealed that he had “paid an amount of more than Rs 19 crores [sic] to Kuntal Ghosh on the instructions of Santanu Banerjee…”, the ED remand copy read.
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HC order & political slugfest
In 2019, several petitions were filed in the Calcutta High Court in connection with a recruitment drive conducted by the West Bengal Central School Service Commission in 2006. In 2021, the HC handed over the probe in the case to the CBI. The hearings in the case started in 2022 and, since then, the court has cancelled appointments of over 4,000 candidates who are accused of using fraudulent means for selection.
The ED is conducting a parallel investigation in the case.
Last week, the HC ordered the cancellation of appointments of over 800 Group C employees in West Bengal government-run schools.
Referring to the latest HC order, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while addressing an event in Kolkata Tuesday, said, “I would urge (the high court) not to sack people at the drop of a hat… If I have done anything wrong, slap me. I will not mind if I am guilty…”
The TMC has also raised the issue of “misuse of central agencies” in the ongoing Budget session in Parliament. On Monday, the party passed a resolution in the Bengal assembly against what it described as the “misuse of the ED and CBI”.
Meanwhile, the BJP is seeking to corner the TMC over the arrests.
Speaking to ABP Ananda in his constituency, Nandigram, Tuesday, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP said the central agency will dig out proof from underground against the TMC.
“The ED has extracted chats from 10 years ago. Even if the illegal money is underground, the ED will dig it out. We have wiped out the CPI (M), we will wipe out the TMC,” he said.
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)
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