Recruitment row: CBI books Bengal minister, daughter; questions him for 5 hours

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday registered an FIR against West Bengal minister of state for school education Paresh Chandra Adhikari and his daughter Ankita Adhikari over allegations of irregularity in securing her a teacher’s job while ignoring the merit list.

The move came after Adhikari failed to appear before the CBI sleuths in Kolkata by 3pm as ordered by a single-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court. The minister, who reached the CBI office in the evening, was questioned by the agency officials for more than 5 hours.

The case was filed under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code against unidentified officials of the West Bengal Central School Service Commission (WBCSSC) and others besides Adhikari and his daughter.

It is alleged that the merit list for appointment of assistant teachers for the subject of political science against an advertisement published in 2016 by state School Education Department was altered to accommodate Adhikari’s daughter, depriving eligible candidates from getting appointment, the agency’s FIR read.

When Adhikari did not appear before the CBI, the single-judge bench of Justice Gangopadhyay ordered the minister to either make it on or before 3pm or strict action would be initiated against him.

Adhikari’s lawyer submitted that the minister was in Coochbehar and would travel to Kolkata by air in the evening. Justice Gangopadhyay then asked the Bidhannagar police to take him to the CBI office as soon as he lands at the NSC Bose Airport.

The judge also said that if Adhikari was found missing on the flight, it would be treated as a hoax created by him to escape the court and the CBI and the matter would be dealt with accordingly.

The minister reached the agency office around 5pm and left around 10:30pm.

A CBI official said Adhikari had mailed the agency, seeking more time to appear before its sleuths.

Meanwhile, the bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay also directed that central forces stay put at the School Service Commission (SSC) office, and two jawans be deployed at the data room in connection with the alleged scam in the recruitment of teachers in state government-aided schools.

Justice Gangopadhyay on Wednesday night had directed the CBI, which is probing the alleged irregularities in the teachers’ recruitment, to seek assistance of central forces in securing the state’s SSC office.

He also ordered that no one should enter the building till 1pm on Thursday and make the CCTV footage of the office available by Friday noon.

The bench held a special hearing around 9pm after the incumbent SSC chairperson, Siddhartha Majumdar, stepped down from his post, four months after taking the charge.

Following the news of Majumdar’s resignation, lawyers of Sabina Yasmin and Babita Sarkar – the petitioners in the recruitment scam – met Justice Gangopadhyay and apprised him that there was an apprehension that “crucial evidence” could be tampered with in the wake of the new SSC chairperson taking charge.

Sources in the government said that Subhra Chakraborty, an IAS officer, was appointed the new SSC chairperson. SSC lawyer Kishore Dutta, however, claimed that Chakraborty was not the new commission chairman.

(With agency inputs)

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