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In ‘midnight order’ Calcutta HC directs CRPF to seal West Bengal School Service Commission office

The order passed by single bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay followed claims of evidence tampering in alleged 2016 School Service Commission recruitment scam being probed by CBI.

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Kolkata: In a late night order Wednesday, the Calcutta High Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take help from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to secure the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) building in Kolkata, over claims of evidence tampering in the alleged SSC recruitment scam being probed by the CBI.

The counsel of petitioners raised a plea for urgent hearing before Calcutta High Court Chief Justice, Prakash Srivastava, through the registrar at 9.30 PM Wednesday. At 10.30 PM, the Chief Justice granted permission and the matter was taken up at 11.30PM on Wednesday night by the single bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay, which earlier in the day had directed West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee to appear before the CBI for investigations in the case.

An inquiry committee constituted by the Calcutta High Court had — in a report submitted last month — described how 609 allegedly illegal recruitments of Group ‘D’ staff had been carried out by the West Bengal Central School Service Commission in 2016.

“Through sources we learnt many people went inside the School Service Commission building to tamper with the evidence. We mentioned before the single bench, citing an example of the alleged Saradha Scam, where electronic evidence was allegedly tampered with. The judge heard our plea and passed an order five minutes before midnight,” counsel Bikram Banerjee told ThePrint.

The court has sought the CCTV footage of the WBSSC office by noon Thursday and directed the CRPF to not allow any officials, employees, or persons to enter the WBSSC premises till 1PM. The matter will again come up for hearing before the Justice Gangopadhyay bench Thursday afternoon.


Also read: Calcutta HC lawyers write to CJI, call out TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee’s ‘misconduct’ as advocate


Chatterjee questioned for three-and-a-half hours

On Wednesday, the Calcutta High Court had directed Chatterjee, a close aide of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and a senior Trinamool Congress leader, to physically appear before the CBI for interrogation. He had been the minister in charge of education at the time when the alleged recruitment scam took place in 2016.

The minister moved a division bench of Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindra Samanta against the summons. But the bench did not accept the matter for hearing, saying the files were not in order.

Minister Partha Chatterjee at the CBI office in Kolkata Wednesday | Photo: Sreyashi Dey | ThePrint
Minister Partha Chatterjee at the CBI office in Kolkata Wednesday | Photo: Sreyashi Dey | ThePrint

Chatterjee then appeared for questioning at the CBI’s Nizam Palace office in Kolkata at 6 PM amidst tight security. This was the first time the minister had been questioned by the CBI in relation to the alleged scam and the inquiry continued for over three-and-a-half hours, said sources in the central agency.

Also present at the CBI office at the same time were four members of the special committee formed by the West Bengal government to oversee the alleged illegal appointments.

According to sources, senior CBI officials in the joint director rank have come down from New Delhi to investigate the case.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)


Also read: Sealed cover report, stay on order for CBI inquiry — why Calcutta HC judges are at odds


 

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