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  Opinion   Edit  23 Apr 2024  AA Edit | HC sacking WB teachers fine, but salary diktat harsh

AA Edit | HC sacking WB teachers fine, but salary diktat harsh

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Apr 23, 2024, 8:58 pm IST
Updated : Apr 23, 2024, 8:58 pm IST

Calcutta High Court Cancels School Staff Appointments Amid Corruption Allegations

The Calcutta High Court's decision to nullify school staff appointments sparks debate. (PTI File Image)
 The Calcutta High Court's decision to nullify school staff appointments sparks debate. (PTI File Image)

 

The Monday verdict of a division bench of the Calcutta high court, in which it held the recruitment and appointment of 25,753 school staff, including teachers and non-teaching staffers, by the West Bengal government as null and void, and cancelled their postings owing to corruption in the entire process, is very welcome. It sets a wonderful precedent and serves as a fair warning to political parties and state governments that they may not use public recruitment drives for either corrupt or partisan aims.

However, one clause of the verdict, in which the high court said that all the staff so cancelled must return their entire remuneration received during the duration of their job within one month and with interest, is extremely harsh and neither practically enforceable, nor a good precedent.

The bench of the high court, led by Justice Debangsu Basak, in its order emphasising the need to preserve integrity of the process, observed, “…We have no other way than to cancel the whole recruitment panel. We would rather have persons of integrity appointed as teachers through an untainted selection process rather than expose students to elements securing appointments through an unscrupulous selection process.”

The court also observed that the OMR sheets were manipulated, which made the recruitments illegal. The verdict, which is likely to be challenged by the West Bengal government in the Supreme Court, would have great value for reference regarding the maximum costs imposed by the court against any other government found guilty of fraudulent methods in public recruitment.

However, its observation in the same verdict, that “persons appointed after expiry of panel, as also those who submitted blank OMR sheets but obtained appointments… must return all remuneration and benefits received by them to state exchequer, along with interest calculated at 12 per cent per annum, within a period of four weeks”, makes it highly contentious.

The recruitment process, in which over 23 lakh candidates appeared, for the state level recruitment test in 2016 for 24,640 posts, was challenged by candidates who appeared but could not get selected. The bench, formed at the direction of the Supreme Court, heard over 350 petitions and appeals. Earlier, the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested state education minister Partha Chatterjee for the alleged irregularities in recruitment.

Predictably, Trinamul Congress chief and CM Mamata Banerjee reacted harshly to the court order, dubbing it “illegal”, and promised the staffers fired by the court order that her government “…would stand for those who lost their jobs and appeal before a higher court. It is not mandatory to accept all verdicts. The order was passed as per BJP’s instructions, amid the elections”.

At a legal level, the bench, also observed that “… all appointments granted in the selection processes involved, being violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India, are declared null and void, and cancelled.”

The court also directed the CBI to “…interrogate all persons who received appointments...  undertake further investigations with regard to persons involved in state government approving creation of supernumerary posts to accommodate illegal appointments”.

The probe, which will be long drawn, will in parallel play out in both the legal and political spheres. The BJP, enjoying the judicial reflections, reacted with glee ahead of a tough election in the state, saying, “…deserving candidates are smiling. Now it is time for nephew and aunt to go.”

We will know on June 4, if that wish would be granted, or rejected.

Tags: aa edit, calcutta high court, corruption allegations