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Recruitment scam: Calcutta high court stays CBI grilling of former WBSSC advisor

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KOLKATA: A division bench of the Calcutta high court on Friday stayed the order of a single bench which had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to interrogate former advisor of the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) in the alleged recruitment scam in government schools.

A single bench of justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay on Thursday directed the regional head of CBI to interrogate SP Sinha by Thursday midnight. Sinha, who was not traceable till late night, reached the CBI office in Kolkata around 11.15pm on Thursday. He was questioned by the sleuths till around 2.25am on Friday.

On Friday, however, a division bench comprising Justice Soumen Sen and Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee imposed a stay on the CBI probe until the next date of hearing, which is slated to take place on April 4.

In 2016, the Mamata Banerjee-administration recommended the appointment of around 13,000 non-teaching staff in state-aided schools. The WBSSC conducted examinations and interviews. A panel was set up. Allegations surfaced that the commission made around 500 irregular recruitments after the expiry of the panel.

“I have cooperated with the investigating officials and have answered all their questions,” Sinha told the media early on Friday after facing the central agency.

On Friday, additional solicitor general YJ Dastoor appearing for CBI filed before the court a preliminary report in a sealed cover containing the responses of Sinha during the CBI questioning.

The court, in its order on Thursday said that Sinha was one of the ‘kingpins of the alleged corruption of giving illegal public appointment’.

“In such circumstances a thorough probe is required to bust the racket of giving illegal appointments. I have found from other similar matters that the said Santi Prasad Sinha as one of the kingpins of this corruption of giving illegal public appointment. Hence, I direct the regional head of the CBI to call SP Sinha in course of the day and start questioning him. The CBI is directed to initiate the said interrogation in course of the day – I mean by 12 midnight today,” the single bench order stated.

Earlier the single bench of Justice Gangopadhyay had on two occasions ordered the CBI to probe into the alleged recruitment scam. While once it was quashed by the division bench on another occasion it was stayed. The division bench had even set up a committee headed by former Justice Ranjit Kumar Bagh to probe into the alleged irregularities.

The commission in an affidavit filed before the high court had submitted that 96 recommendation letters which appear to have been issued between September 2019 and December 2019 were not issued by the commission.

“It appeared that on the basis of some recommendation from outside the office of the commission at the instance of Sinha, the recommendation letters were printed by the Programme Officer wherein the signatures of the Chairman of the Commission were mechanically printed. The Chairman was kept in the dark,” the court said.

On Wednesday, the single bench took strong objection to the direction issued by the division bench comprising justices Harish Tandon and Rabindranath Samanta to take on record the affidavit of assets that is to be filed by S.P. Sinha, former SSC advisor, in a ‘sealed cover’.

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