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School jobs scam: HC asks Bengal to decide on granting sanction to prosecute accused by May 2

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KOLKATA, April 23: The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday directed the West Bengal chief secretary to decide by May 2 on grant of sanction for prosecution of former public servants arrested by CBI in the 2016 school jobs case, which saw the cancellation of over 25,500 appointments the day before.

A division bench said that in the event the chief secretary fails to comply with this order, the court will be constrained to initiate appropriate proceedings against him.

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Another division bench of the high court on Monday cancelled 25,753 appointments of teaching and non-teaching staff in West Bengal government-sponsored and -aided schools, declaring null and void the recruitment process of the State Level Selection Test (SLST) 2016 by the School Service Commission.

Noting that the application by CBI for sanction of prosecution of these persons has been pending since 2022, a division bench presided by Justice Joymalya Bagchi directed the chief secretary to decide on sanction of prosecution of the accused persons, who were arrested two years back, by May two.

Maintaining that grant of sanction is a stepping stone to the commencement of trial, the court said that it is the requirement of law that the sanctioning authority ought to take a prompt decision in the matter.

“While taking a decision, he should not be overawed or influenced by the position, authority or power of the accused persons and take an independent decision on the matter,” the division bench, also comprising Justice Gaurang Kanth, said.

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The court made the order during the hearing of bail prayers by the accused persons, who include Partha Chatterjee, a former education minister of the state.

Stating that they have been in custody for almost two years but the case could not progress due to absence of sanction for prosecution of some of the then public servants, their lawyers prayed that they be released on bail owing to the delay.

The CBI had stated before the court during the previous hearing of the matter that the governor of West Bengal had granted sanction to prosecute Chatterjee.

The division bench was hearing the bail prayers of Chatterjee, former secretary of West Bengal School Service Commission Ashok Saha, ex-SSC chairman Subires Bhattacharyya and former chairman of SSC’s advisory committee Santi Prasad Sinha, who are in custody for about two years in connection with the case.

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The court questioned whether these accused persons are so important that they can stall the sanction process for one and half years.

The bench on April 9 also expressed its displeasure over the delay in grant of sanction and directed the chief secretary to take a decision by April 23.

On Monday, a division bench presided by Justice Debasgsu Basak, in its judgement on the school jobs matters had noted the delay in granting sanction for prosecution of the accused persons.

The bench had said that it was refraining from issuing any directions to the chief secretary in this regard since a coordinate bench had issued orders for the expeditious disposal of the application for sanction. (PTI)






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