Big Blow To Trinamool, Nearly 25000 Teachers Fired Told To Return Their Salaries Along with 12% Interest

Big Blow To Trinamool, Nearly 25000 Teachers Fired Told To Return Their Salaries Along with 12% Interest

In a big setback to the Mamata Banerjee government, the Calcutta High Court has cancelled the 2016 recruitment process for government-sponsored and aided schools.

As many as 25,753 appointees are set to lose their jobs and return the salaries they have withdrawn since joining with a 12% interest, according to the order.A division bench of Justice Debangsu Basak and Justice Md Shabbar Rashidi said the school teachers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.The state government is likely to challenge the 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 political “explosion,” 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 West Bengal too targeted the Trinamool government and said 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.

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 Ganguly, the judge who had also ordered a CBI probe in the case, resigned after several run-ins with the ruling Trinamool and is now a BJP candidate in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

Days later after the initial judgment, 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.

What is the teacher recruitment scandal in Bengal?

The alleged West Bengal Teacher Recruitment Scam traces back to the initiation of the teacher appointment process in state-run schools via the State Level Selection Test (SLST) in 2014, with the recruitment commencing in 2016.

The West Bengal government issued a notification in 2016 for the recruitment of 13,000 Group-D employees in state-run schools.

There were several petitions filed in the HC alleging irregularities in the scam. The petitioners claimed that several candidates with low grades were placed higher on the merit list, raising concerns about the fairness of this process. There were allegations that individuals who were not on the merit list were given appointment letters.

In another case, petitioners alleged that despite the expiration of the appointment panel in 2019, the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) continued to make appointments. Some petitioners asserted that over 500 individuals secured appointments post-panel expiration, subsequently drawing salaries from the state exchequer.

In November 2021, a single bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay ordered a preliminary inquiry by the CBI into alleged irregularities. He passed the order while hearing a petition by job aspirants who claimed appointments were made after the panel set up for recruitment in Group D staff in state-run schools had expired.

The WBBSE, in an affidavit before the court, had claimed that all the appointments were based on recommendations by the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC). However, the commission submitted an affidavit before the court stating that after 4 May 2019, when the panel for the Group D staff requirement had expired, no recommendation letter was issued by it, according to a report in The Indian Express.

What inquiries into the case revealed?

The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigated the case.

In 2022, the CBI probe focused on the appointment of 269 primary school teachers in schools aided and sponsored by the state government. The FIR by the CBI alleged irregularities in the 2014 selection process, claiming incorrect question and answer keys were used to exclude eligible candidates, reports The Times of India. It claimed some ineligible candidates were appointed – candidates who submitted blank exam papers also got the job.

The ED conducted a separate investigation into alleged money laundering linked to the scam.

In August 2022, the ED arrested former education minister Partha Chatterjee and his close aide Arpita Mukherjee. Chatterjee was named the prime accused in the case.

Several SSC officials, including TMC MLA Manik Bhattacharya, were also arrested.

The charge sheet filed by the ED said Rs 103.10 crore assets were held by former state minister Partha Chatterjee and his close aide Arpita Mukherjee.

Earlier this month, the ED attached properties worth Rs 230 crore of a former adivser to the Bengal SSC Shanti Prasad Sinha and an alleged middleman Prasanna Roy. The latter allegedly collected money and details from candidates.

What did the Calcutta high court say?

A division bench of the Calcutta HC cancelled the illegal recruitment of 23,753 teachers and non-teaching staff and has ordered fresh recruitment against the posts within 15 days.

The bench led by Justice Debangsu Basak 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, according to a report in The Indian Express.

How have Bengal leaders reacted to the verdict?

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has termed the verdict illegal and has pledged to appeal against it. “Our government will stand for those who lost their jobs and we will appeal this order before a higher court,” she said at a rally in Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency. “We challenge the verdict, as it affects 1.5-2 lakh families. Is it possible to return the salary of eight years in 4 weeks?”

(With inputs from Agencies)

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