WB SLST-2016: HC cancels appointments of over 25K teachers, non-teaching staff; Mamata calls it ‘illegal’, says will move SC

KOLKATA, Apr 22 : The Calcutta High Court on Monday ordered the cancellation of appointments of 25,753 teachers and non-teaching staff made through the recruitment process of State Level Selection Test-2016 (SLST) in West Bengal government-sponsored and aided schools, declaring the selection process as “null and void”.

A division bench, comprising justices Debangsu Basak and Md Shabbar Rashidi, also directed the CBI to probe into the appointment process and submit a report in three months.

Reacting sharply, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee termed the high court order “illegal” and said her government will challenge the verdict. Senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari welcomed the court judgement, asserting that it proves that the “TMC government was indeed involved in corruption”.

West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC) Chairman Siddharth Majumder said the commission will approach the Supreme Court, after going through the complete high court order.

Over 23 lakh candidates had appeared for the SLST-2016 for 24,640 vacant posts. A total of 25,753 appointment letters were issued against 24,640 vacancies, Firdaus Shamim, a lawyer for some of the petitioners who had alleged irregularities in the selection process, said.

The court also instructed those appointed outside the officially available 24,640 vacancies, appointed after the expiry of the official date of recruitment, and those who submitted blank Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) sheets but obtained appointments to return all remunerations and benefits received by them with 12 per cent per annum interest, within four weeks.

Observing that it has given “anxious consideration to the passionate plea” that persons who had obtained the appointments legally would be prejudiced if the entire selection process is cancelled, the bench said it hardly had any choice left.

The court held that all appointments granted in the selection processes involved were violative of Articles 14 (equality before the law) and 16 (prohibiting discrimination in employment in any government office) of the Constitution.

“It is shocking that, at the level of the cabinet of the State Government, a decision is taken to protect employment obtained fraudulently in a selection process conducted by SSC for state-funded schools, knowing fully well that, such appointments were obtained beyond the panel and after expiry of the panel, at the bare minimum,” the court said.

Unless “there is a deep connection between the persons perpetuating the fraud and the beneficiaries” with persons involved in the decision-making process, such action to create supernumerary posts to protect illegal appointments is “inconceivable”, the bench observed.

The court verdict also triggered a political slugfest with Banerjee alleging that the order was “passed as per the BJP’s instructions amid the elections” and Adhikari attacking the state government, saying the party “condemn this corrupt government, where ministers and party leaders sold jobs.”

Banerjee said: “The court verdict cancelling all recruitments is illegal. We stand by those who lost their jobs. We will ensure you get justice, and challenge the order in a higher court.”

Later, addressing a rally at Karandighi, Banerjee asserted, “It is not mandatory to accept all verdicts. We will challenge the order in the Supreme Court. This order was passed as per the BJP’s instructions amid the elections.”

Accusing the saffron party of manipulating the judicial system, Banerjee said: “It has turned the courts into their extended party offices. If the BJP files a PIL, prompt action is taken and people are sent to jail. No action is initiated when others file.”

Bengal BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said Banerjee being the head of the government was “answerable as to how such a scam took place in the state”.

“The chief minister cannot avoid her responsibility as the head of the state. We demand an explanation from her on how such a scam took place in the state. Thousands of families have been impacted by this decision,” he said.

The division bench also rejected a prayer by some appellants, including the West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC), for a stay on the order and asked the commission to initiate a fresh appointment process within a fortnight from the date of the results of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

The bench, formed by the Chief Justice of the high court on a direction of the Supreme Court, had heard 350 petitions and appeals relating to the selection of candidates for appointment by the SSC in the categories of teachers of classes 9, 10, 11 and 12 and group-C and D staffers through the SLST-2016. It concluded the hearing on March 20 and reserved the judgment.

In its 282-page judgment, the court directed the CBI to undertake further investigation cases it had registered and to interrogate all persons who had received appointments beyond the panel, after its expiry, and after submitting blank OMR sheets. The court said that if necessary, the CBI would hold custodial interrogation of each of them.

Maintaining that retaining appointees selected through “such a dubious process” would be contrary to the public interest, the court said, “By dint of the tenure of service of such appointees, successive generations of students would be exposed to these elements which would be counterproductive to public and national interest.”

Meanwhile, calling the high court order an “appropriate judgment”, former judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay demanded “immediate resignation” of Banerjee.

Gangopadhyay, whose single bench had previously ordered a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in the recruitment process, asserted that “the entire group of fraudsters in the state administration” responsible for perpetrating the scam “should be hanged”.

Speaking to reporters here, Gangopadhyay, who resigned as a Calcutta High Court judge on March 5 to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Tamluk in Purba Medinipur district on a BJP ticket, said, “The real culprits are sitting in top positions of state administration and hiding behind their security bubble. If they have the courage and any shame left in them, they should quit their positions of power, shred their protective cover and face investigations.”

“The Chief Minister deprived the qualified candidates for years and left them under unspeakable distress,” he said and added, “I would have dragged her down from her chair myself if I had that kind of power.” (PTI)


The post WB SLST-2016: HC cancels appointments of over 25K teachers, non-teaching staff; Mamata calls it ‘illegal’, says will move SC appeared first on Daily Excelsior.