WB govt moves SC against Calcutta HC order in municipality recruitment scam

  • Lawbeat News Desk
  • 01:36 PM, 03 Jun 2023

Read Time: 08 minutes


On May 22, the high court's division bench had refused to put an interim stay on the previous order by a single judge bench.

The West Bengal government has filed a plea in the Supreme Court against the Calcutta High Court order allowing central agencies of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to investigate the recruitment scam in various municipalities of the state.

The high court's division bench had on May 22 refused to put an interim stay on the previous order by a single judge bench. The court had then declined to interfere with the order of April 21, 2023 passed by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay and subsequently modified by the judgement of May 12, 2023 by Justice Amrita Sinha. 

Appearing for the WB government, advocate Sunil Fernandes mentioned the matter before a bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and K V Viswanathan for urgent hearing.

He sought protection for the accused as agencies were to proceed with their probe. 

Representing the agencies, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta questioned as to how the state can move the court. If an accused had moved the court, it could have been understood, he said.

The bench, for its part, told Fernandes that the matter could be heard in July after vacation. The court asked him to mention it again on reopening of the court.

In its special leave petition, the state government has said that the order passed by the high court allowing the investigation by CBI and ED, is a feeble attempt to overreach the orders passed by apex court with impunity, and to cast aspersions on the state government, in a proceeding, where no opportunity had been given to the state to investigate into any alleged offence, thereby usurping their powers, in a cavalier manner. 

“The impugned order while failing to grant stay on the investigation conducted by the CBI and ED relating to the alleged municipality recruitment scam, has also proceeded to ignore the law laid down by this Court in a catena of cases,” it said.

The state government further claimed the division bench erred in law as the single judge did not have the roster/determination to hear matters either relating to criminal proceedings or relating to municipal authorities, thereby transgressing its powers and jurisdiction, which makes the impugned Order ex-facie illegal.

A bench of Justice Biswajit Basu and Justice Apurba Sinha Roy of the high court had on May 22 refused to put an interim stay on the order allowing CBI to investigate the multi-crore recruitment case in different municipalities of West Bengal.

The bench also ordered Enforcement Directorate to submit its case diary in the matter before June 6, the next date of hearing.

Initially, Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay allowed the central agencies to probe into the municipalities' recruitment scam case, while considering the teachers recruitment scam matters.

The WB government then approached the Supreme Court with a plea for quashing the order by Justice Gangopadhyay. However, the court had referred the matter back to the Calcutta High Court.

In its SLP, the state government contended that even if it is assumed that the ED had discovered certain information regarding proceeds of crime, during the course of investigation, as per the procedure, it was duty bound to share the same with the ‘concerned authority’ for necessary action, which in the instant case should have been the state police not the CBI.

It also submitted that Law and Order is a state subject, and the state police have the primacy to investigate any cognizable offence committed within its territorial jurisdiction. Though the Constitutional Courts are empowered to transfer the investigation to CBI, but such power should be exercised sparingly and only in rare cases, it said.

Pertinently, the Supreme Court had on May 26 refused to interfere with an order by the Calcutta High Court allowing the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to investigate the role of Trinamool Congress national general secretary and Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee in the multi-crore recruitment scam in West Bengal schools. Abhishek is the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.