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Setback to Mamata Banerjee Government, Recruitment of over 25,000 Teachers cancelled

Setback to Mamata Banerjee Government, Recruitment of over 25,000 Teachers cancelled

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 22: In a major setback to the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, the Calcutta High Court on Monday cancelled the entire recruitment process of the 2016 teaching and non-teaching staff and ordered them to return all their salary with 12 per cent interest within four weeks, prompting the chief minister Mamata Banerjee to charge that the BJP leaders were “influencing judiciary and judgements.

The Banerjee government has also promised to challenge in the Supreme Court the High Court’s order that would affect 25,753 teaching and non-teaching staff appointments in government-sponsored and government-aided schools working for the last eight years.

The court has also directed that a fresh recruitment process should be started within 15 days to fill up the vacancies caused by the High Court’s order cancelling the previous recruitment to be illegal.

A division bench of Justices Debangsu Basak and Md Shabbar Rashidi observed that the OMR sheets of Group C, Group D, Class IX and X were manipulated in 2016, making all the recruitments illegal. It added that the names of those who were recruited were included in the panel illegally. “We have no other way but to cancel the whole recruitment panel,” Justice Basak said.

Speaking at a rally in Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency, Mamata Banerjee said, “Our government will stand for those who lost their jobs and we will appeal this order before a higher court.”

Reacting to the order, TMC leader Kunal Ghosh said, “The state government wanted to accommodate those who were not being recruited illegally. The government will explore legal options, but this order is unfortunate.”

The division bench said the school teachers recruited illegally after submitting blank OMR sheets must return their salaries within four weeks. District magistrates have been tasked with collecting the money from these teachers. The court has made an exception in its order, ensuring that one of the appointees, Soma Das who is undergoing cancer treatment, retains her job on humanitarian grounds.

The bench, formed on a Supreme Court direction, has also ordered the CBI to further probe the appointment process and submit a report within three months. It has also asked the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) to begin a fresh appointment process.

WBSSC chairman Siddharth Majumdar has said they will challenge the high court order in the Supreme Court. Several Trinamool leaders, including former education minister Partha Chatterjee and former officials are in jail in connection with the teacher recruitment case.

Reacting to the order, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said BJP leaders are “influencing the judiciary and the judgments.” Referring to BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari’s “prediction” last week of a “bomb like explosion faced TMC this week,” she said, “He predicted an explosion. What is the explosion? Snatching the jobs of 26,000 people and pushing them towards death. How did they know what the court will rule if they did not write the judgment?”

BJP Bengal too targeted the Trinamool government and said Ms Banerjee and her no. 2 in the party, her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, are set to face defeat. “The High Court has cancelled about 24,000 SSC recruitments from 2016, CBI can take anyone into custody. A smile has appeared on the faces of the deserving candidates. Now it’s time for the nephew and his aunt to go. #TMCExposed,” said BJP Bengal.

Over 23 lakh candidates had appeared for the State Level Selection Test-2016 for 24,640 vacant posts while 25,753 appointment letters were issued against the vacancies, according to the lawyer for some of the petitioners. This included posts of teachers of classes 9, 10, 11 and 12 and group-C and D staffers.

In 2021, the Calcutta High Court ordered the Justice Bag committee to review the recruitments in Group C and Group D categories. After preliminary investigation, the committee determined that the OMR sheets were manipulated, following which the court ordered investigations by the CBI and ED.

In August 2022, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested former Education Minister Partha Chatterjee and his close aide Arpita Mukherjee in the case. Several SSC officials, including TMC MLA Manik Bhattacharya were also arrested.

The Calcutta High Court last year dismissed panels set up by the WBSCC in 2016 and cancelled the appointment of 36,000 untrained primary teachers. The figure was later modified to 32,000.

Abhijit Gangopadhyay, the judge who had also ordered a CBI probe in the case, resigned from the judicial services last month and joined the BJP the next day. He was promptly granted the BJP ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Tamluk constituency.

But days after Mr Gangopadhyay’s order, another single-judge bench had paused it until further orders. The Supreme Court last November requested the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court to form a division bench to hear petitions and appeals in the recruitment case and gave six-month protection to those whose appointments were cancelled.

The West Bengal president Sukanta Majumdar, criticised the TMC over the scam. “It is now proved that the TMC government recruited teachers for money. They turned teachers into commodities and sold them in the market.”

Hundreds of school job aspirants, who had protested against alleged irregularities in teachers’ recruitment, had gathered outside the court. Many of them broke into tears. “We had been waiting for this day. After years of struggle on the streets, justice has finally been delivered,” they said.

Advocate Bikram Banerjee, counsel for one of the petitioners, said, “Particularly, the tender process was given to a blacklisted company, namely NYSA, and that process is illegal. The number of illegal appointees cannot be detected, in view of which the entire selection process has been cancelled. The beneficiaries of this illegal process must refund their salaries. The district collectors of all districts in West Bengal have been directed to start the recovery process within four weeks. A fresh selection process must be started. A fresh tender must be publicly advertised.”

“During the process, a super-numerical post was created by the state of West Bengal. Given the illegal appointees, the state of Bengal tried to accommodate them, but this was purely illegal. The Division Bench has directed to investigate and find out who created the super-numerical post. If necessary, the influential person will be taken into custody by CBI,” he added.

Hearing in the matter ended on March 20 and the court had reserved its judgment. The writ petitions challenging the appointments had been filed by candidates who appeared for the recruitment exam, but did not get jobs.

The matter had also reached the Supreme Court, which had asked the high court to constitute a division bench to hear petitions related to the recruitment.



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