A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Friday upheld an order of its single bench that directed the CBI to investigate the alleged irregularities in appointment of primary teachers in West Bengal government-sponsored and -aided schools. The entire investigation will be court-monitored, with the single bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay entitled to call for periodic reports from the probe agencies, the division bench comprising justices Subrata Talukdar and Lapita Banerji directed.
It also said that the single bench will be also entitled to monitor investigation into any money trail, as considered necessary. The division bench held that the direction for CBI handling of forensic investigation in the case by Justice Gangopadhyay deserves no interference. Passing the judgement on appeals by the West Bengal Board of Primary Education and others challenging the CBI probe order, the court observed that the single bench proceeded to take the proverbial bull by its horns. It further observed that the issue of the alleged underhand awarding of qualifying marks to a section of TET-2014 candidates and their subsequent appointments to primary schools has admittedly sprung to life under the watchful eyes of Justice Gangopadhyay.
“orders between 13th of June 2022 and 21st of June 2022, the honourable single Bench has set the proverbial cat among the pigeons,” the division bench observed. The division bench also directed that 269 terminated candidates cannot claim at this stage a prior right to be heard considering the prima facie materials which point to a fraudulent exercise connected to their appointments and, without also completely eliminating their several or joint complicit roles, if any, in abetting the fraud. It said that the appellants who stand terminated from their services as per the single bench order cannot be granted reinstatement until the results of the investigation are available and adjudicated before the court. The high court directed that the single bench will extend a meaningful right of defence to the respondents maintaining their due constitutional and statutory safeguards, before subjecting any of them to any other or further adverse civil consequences.
The court also refused to interfere with the order of Justice Gangopadhyay removing Manik Bhattacharya from his official position of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education president. The division bench, however, ordered that the “disparaging remarks” against Bhattacharya in the single bench orders will be treated to be “Obiter” (made in passing) at this stage.
Bhattacharya is also the ruling TMC MLA from Palashipara constituency in Nadia district of Bengal. The petitioners before the single bench alleged that although they appeared for TET-2014, no list containing the marks of candidates and indicating their respective merit positions was ever published and that an additional panel of 273 candidates was prepared illegally, who were granted one additional mark out of over 20 lakh candidates who appeared for the TET.
It was claimed that by dint of this one additional mark, 269 candidates got qualified for the job of teachers and subsequently got appointments. The appellants claimed that 11,000 trained and 29,358 untrained candidates were appointed as primary teachers on the basis of TET-2014.
The division bench held that the board had been unable to satisfactorily explain as to why the process of awarding the single mark was not made transparent in the public domain. It noted that the status report of the CBI, presented before the court, made a clear reference to the appointment of candidates whose names had not even appeared in TET-2014, and, who by their own admission, paid huge sums of money to middlemen for securing appointments in primary schools.