SC Refuses to Postpone Calcutta HC’s Judgment Directing CBI to Investigate Appointment of Primary School Teachers in WB

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: October 19, 2022 at 21:11 IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to postpone the Calcutta High Court‘s judgment directing the CBI to investigate the appointment of primary school teachers in West Bengal.

A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Vikram Nath highlighted that the High Court’s order for a CBI investigation at this early stage “may fall short of the requirements” outlined in the decision in State of West Bengal and Others vs. Sampat Lal and Others.

However, given the CBI’s position and the fact that the inquiry has made significant headway, the court stated that it does not want to halt the probe at this stage and wait to see if the State Police can conduct the same investigation impartially.

“We accordingly refuse the petitioners’ request to halt that portion of the order in question that directs the CBI to continue its probe,” the bench stated.

The Supreme Court also stayed the High Court’s order cancelling the candidacy of 269 candidates, noting that they were not heard as parties. The materials, according to the High Court’s Division Bench, suggested a false exercise.

“Such rulings reflect some sort of investigative role played by the Court in getting documentation from the recruiting bodies. It was also not the case that the various appointments were recent,” the Supreme Court made this observation in this regard.

“We believe that the portion of the Single Judge’s judgement that terminated the appointment of 269 candidates should be stayed, and they should also be impleaded as party respondents in WPA No.7907 of 2019.”

“After providing them the opportunity to file affidavits and hearing them, the Single Judge will make an appropriate decision based on the defence raised by those candidates in the writ petition. If the Single Judge wishes, he may mandate that the investigation into their appointment be performed through the already created SIT “, the Court noted.

The Court also ruled that the High Court’s order to remove Dr. Manik Bhattacharya as President of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education (WBBPE) “was faulty, failing to meet the procedural fairness criteria that is required to direct removal of a person from a public post.”

“We do not believe that the High Court has the authority to direct the removal of someone from a public office. However, in most cases, such a course of action would be conducted through a quo warranto proceeding.”

“Even if the Court establishes that an incumbent obtained a public office through deception, the Court may declare him unfit for the position. However, in this case, the Court held him accountable for misleading and relying on questionable papers before the Court.”

“In this scenario, he should have been given an adequate opportunity to defend his viewpoint. At best, the Court could have ordered him not to perform his obligations in the relevant position until he provided an explanation.”

“The order of the Single Judge directing his removal accordingly shall stand stayed alongwith the order of the Division Bench which has confirmed the removal order”.

However, the Court did not order Dr. Bhattacharya’s restoration because another individual had already been nominated as President of the Board.

In light of this, the Court went on to say:

“As a result, we hold that the current President of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education shall remain in office till the final resolution of the writ petition before the Single Judge in which the directives for the petitioner’s removal were issued.”

“Dr. Manik Bhattacharya has the right to file affidavits in support of the writ petitions, as well as any further affidavit taken out in connection with the writ petitions that may contain claims against him.”

“The Single Judge will rule on this issue, as well as any other issues raised in the ongoing writ petitions. Until then, the current President of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education will continue to serve in that capacity, and Dr. Manik Bhattacharya’s position will be contingent on the outcome of the pending writ petition “.

The Court issued these instructions in response to a number of petitions filed by Dr. Manik Bhattacharya and the impacted candidates.

The following are the operative portions of the Court’s order:

a). The CBI under the SIT shall continue their investigation as directed by the Single Judge and file a comprehensive report before this Court within a period of four weeks as regards progress of the investigation.

(b) (i). The order passed directing cancellation of 269 candidates by the Single Judge on 13th June 2022 and the part of the order of the Division Bench confirming that order shall stand stayed and remain in abeyance.

(ii). Each of these 269 individuals are directed to be added as a party respondent in WPA No.7907 of 2019 and they shall be entitled to file affidavits to defend their appointment to the said posts, if so advised. The appointing authority will proceed in accordance with law and take appropriate decision after the writ court adjudicates on legality of their appointments. This direction would be subject to any order that may be passed by this Court at a subsequent stage of this proceeding.

(c) (i). The order removing Dr. Manik Bhattacharya passed by the Single Judge and confirmed by the Division Bench shall remain stayed until further order of this Court. We, however, are not directing his reinstatement for the reason already disclosed in earlier part of this order. Dr. Manik Bhattacharya shall be entitled to defend his position in the writ petition by filing affidavits in respect of allegations made against him.

(ii). We have protected Dr. Manik Bhattacharya from any coercive steps that may have been taken by the CBI in course of the investigation. There was no allegation from the CBI in course of hearing of these matters that he was not cooperating with the investigation. It was, however, mentioned before us on 12th October, 2022, that he has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate. So far as CBI is concerned, let the order protecting him from coercive steps continue until further order.

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