CALCULATED: A Kolkata court on Friday remanded former West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee and former state board of education chairman Kalyanmoy Gangopadhyay into the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with alleged irregularities in the recruitment of teachers.
Chatterjee was arrested by the Directorate of Law Enforcement (ED) along with his assistant Arpita Mukherjee on July 23 for money laundering in connection with the teacher recruitment case.
Former West Bengal Board of Secondary Education chairman Kalyanmoy Gangopadhyay, who was arrested on Thursday after being grilled for six hours, was also taken into custody by the CBI. Gangopadhyay served as chairman of the secondary education board for 10 years before retiring about two months ago. Gangopadhyay applied for bail; it was rejected.
Partha Chatterjee, who was brought from the Presidency Reformatory where he has been housed since early August, was brought before the Alipore Court in Kolkata on Friday in the presence of a massive deployment of central armed police. Many people shouted at Chatterjee, calling him a ‘thief’, as he was taken from court to the CBI office at Nizam Palace in South Kolkata.
Both were taken into custody by the CBI until September 21.
In May, Calcutta High Court Judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay ordered the CBI to investigate the illegal appointment of non-teaching staff (groups C and D) and teaching staff by the West Bengal Central School Service Commission ( WBSSC) and the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education.
The recruitments took place in phases during Chatterjee’s tenure as minister from 2014 to 2021.
Partha Chatterjee claimed earlier that he left the recruitment process to a high-level advisory committee which is now under scrutiny. The committee’s chief adviser, Shanti Prasad Sinha, has already been arrested by the CBI along with Ashok Saha, a senior WBSSC officer.
A CBI official said on condition of anonymity that the agency planned to confront the four defendants – Partha Chatterjee, Kalyanmoy Gangopadhyay, Shanti Prasad Sinha and Ashok Saha – face to face during their interrogation.
A visibly upset Chatterjee told the judge on Friday that he was ill and had to take more than 28 medications a day, attorneys present at the hearing said.
Pleading for his release, Chatterjee said he was an alumnus of a Ramakrishna mission school, holds a degree in business management and also holds a doctorate.
“I come from a family of educated people. I held a management position in a large company before entering politics. I will cooperate with the CBI. Please release me,” Chatterjee reportedly told the judge in Bengali.
Lawyer Salim Rehman, who represented Chatterjee, disputed CBI’s claim that the former minister was monitoring illegal appointments.
“We told the court that as a minister he was in charge of several autonomous bodies. One of them was the WBSSC. He did not monitor his daily activities. ED quit Chatterjee two months ago. CBI is trying to keep him locked up because he may be out on bail in the near future,” Rehman said.
Before ordering the CBI investigation, the High Court assigned retired judge Ranjit Kumar Bag to investigate as a few hundred job seekers alleged in their petitions that they had not been recruited despite the passing qualifying exams while ineligible people got away with paying bribes.
Ranjit Kumar Bag’s Board of Inquiry held 11 senior government officials accountable for the irregularities and recommended a criminal investigation against six people, including Gangopadhyay and Sinha.
The investigation report indicates that many recruits did not pass the written exam or appear for the personality test. Among these recruits was the daughter of Minister Paresh Adhikari. The court canceled his appointment.
The investigation report also states that Sinha sent letters recommending the appointment of disqualified candidates to Gangopadhyay, who sent them to various schools.
Gangopadhyay’s lawyers claimed in court on Friday that he never physically signed a letter of appointment and that his scanned signature was used in all documents. They also said he had always cooperated with CBI officers and should therefore be released on bail.