The Supreme Court Monday refused to entertain an appeal of the West Bengal government challenging the June 15 order of the Calcutta High Court asking the CBI and ED to probe alleged irregularities in the recruitment of staff in various municipal bodies.
A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra, while junking the appeal of the state government, said prima facie the alleged municipality recruitment scam appeared to be linked to the teachers recruitment case which is being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.
“No, sorry. Dismissed,” the bench said.
The bench also did not agree with the contention of senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the state government, that let it be said that the order of the Calcutta High Court asking the CBI and ED to probe this case also will not be treated as a “precedent”.
The senior lawyer referred to several judgements to highlight the point that the state government’s power to deal with such cases will be diminished if probe by central agencies is allowed in this manner.
Sibal said the high court had erred in its decision of transferring the matter to the central agencies as there was no material to prove that the state could not investigate the alleged scam.
He said the ED had no jurisdiction and it was just “targeting” officers at this point. “Which other states is this happening in? There is no jurisdiction of ED here,” Sibal said.
The bench, however, rejected the contention of the state government, saying there was a prima facie link between the two cases.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the central probe agencies, said there seemed to be a larger conspiracy at play and that it seemed the two scams- ‘Municipality Recruitment Scam’ and the Teachers Appointment Scam’ were interrelated.
On June 15, a division bench of the Calcutta High Court had dismissed the appeal by the West Bengal government challenging a single bench direction to the central agencies to investigate alleged irregularities in the recruitment of staff in various municipal bodies in the state.
The high court had observed that an “uninterrupted and conclusive investigation into the connected schemes of corruption” was the only means by which the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
On April 21, a single judge bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay had directed the CBI to investigate the alleged scam in municipal recruitment, after taking note of the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) findings during its probe into the school jobs for bribes scam.
He had directed the central agencies probe the alleged scam, observing that common agents and common beneficiaries were involved and the victim in both cases – school jobs and municipality recruitment scandals- were the common people.
Challenging this order, the state had moved the Supreme Court, which did not interfere with the direction, while permitting the state to move a review petition before the high court against the order.
On May 12, another single judge bench of Justice Amrita Sinha dismissed a review petition by the West Bengal government against Justice Gangopadhyay’s order.
In its judgement on the appeal of the state government, the division bench of the high court had noted that the contents of ED’s report reveal that the alleged perpetrators of corruption in the recruitment of primary school teachers have concocted a larger nefarious scheme of manipulating the recruitment process across various municipalities in West Bengal.
While the CBI is probing the criminal aspect of the school jobs scam cases, the ED is looking into the money trail involved in the alleged irregularities in the teachers’ recruitment.
The case related to alleged irregularities in the recruitment of staff in various municipal bodies was also referred to central agencies by the high court on June 15.