Calcutta High Court Pressures Bengal Chief Secretary on Delayed Approval for CBI Trial

Calcutta High Court demands Bengal Chief Secretary's prompt action on CBI trial approval for officials in school recruitment case.

The Calcutta High Court has taken a firm stance against the delay in granting consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to commence trials against officials accused of irregularities in school recruitments. On Tuesday, the court reprimanded the Bengal Chief Secretary after he submitted a report suggesting that the state would reveal its stance only after the Lok Sabha polls.

The court, headed by Justice Joymalya Bagchi, emphasized the need for prompt action and directed the chief secretary to submit a report on the state government's position by April 23. Failure to comply could result in the chief secretary being summoned before the court.

Questioning the chief secretary's justification for delaying the decision, Justice Bagchi emphasized that the normal functioning of the government should not be hindered by electoral proceedings. He raised concerns about the connection between elections and the approval process for initiating trials against accused individuals. The court demanded clarification on whether FIRs were being registered and if the police were taking action against the accused during the election period.

The individuals under scrutiny include Subires Bhattacharyya, former chairman of the West Bengal School Service Commission (2014-2018); S.P. Sinha, former chairman of the commission's advisory committee (2016-2021); and Ashok Kumar Saha, former chairman of the SSC (January-December 2020). The CBI had filed a chargesheet against them and other former officials of the SSC on October 25, 2022, regarding alleged illegal recruitment of assistant teachers for Classes IX and X in government-aided schools.

Despite the chargesheet being filed almost one-and-a-half years ago, the trial has yet to commence due to the absence of approval from the chief secretary. In contrast, the governor has approved the trial of former education minister Partha Chatterjee, and the Speaker of the Assembly has approved the trial of two MLAs, Jiban Krishna Saha and Manik Bhattacharya, in connection with the same alleged irregularities.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the chief secretary's failure to submit an affidavit explaining the delay, Justice Bagchi emphasized the urgency of the matter. He warned that the delay could result in the investigating agencies seeking a transfer of the trial to another state, raising questions about the court's course of action in such a scenario.

The CBI counsel highlighted that the agency had applied to the chief secretary for approval months ago but had received no response. In response, the bench issued an order on March 22, instructing the chief secretary to submit an affidavit by April 3, elucidating the reasons for the delay.

Justice Bagchi expressed concerns that the accused individuals were receiving undue privileges due to administrative delays and stressed the chief secretary's responsibility to act impartially, rising above political interests.