The Supreme Court on Friday declined urgent hearing of an appeal filed by the West Bengal government challenging a Calcutta High Court order refusing to grant interim stay on the investigation being conducted by the CBI and ED in the alleged municipality recruitment scam.
A vacation bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and KV Viswanathan said the apex court will hear the matter on July 3, when the court opens after summer recess. It said till then the state can seek adjournment of proceedings before the high court.
"We will hear the matter on July 3. Till then you can seek adjournments there (before the high court)," the bench said.
Advocate Sunil Fernandes, appearing for the West Bengal government, urged the bench to urgently list the matter, saying the accused in the case needed protection, and any delay will result in the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate proceeding with the investigation against them.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed urgent listing of the plea and asked how can the state government come and seek protection for the accused.
"The CBI and ED cannot arrest the state government. How is the state government aggrieved in the matter? One can understand had some accused come before the court," Mehta said.
Fernandes read out the orders passed by courts to urge the bench for urgent listing but the apex court said it will hear the matter on July 3.
The state government has assailed the May 22 order passed by a division bench of the high court which refused to grant interim relief of stay of the order dated April 21, 2023 passed by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay, which was subsequently modified by the judgment dated May 12, 2023 passed by Justice Amrita Sinha.
"The impugned order while failing to grant stay on the investigation conducted by the CBI and ED relating to the alleged 'Municipality recruitment scam', has also proceeded to ignore the law laid down by this court in a catena of cases," the state's appeal said.
It said the apex court vide order dated October 18, 2022 has severely criticised the directions issued by the single judge to the CBI to initiate investigation in the first instance.
"Both the single judges in review petition and division bench have ignored the observations of this court in order dated October 18, 2022," it said.
The appeal said, "In light of the above, the impugned order passed by division bench allowing the investigation by CBI and ED is a feeble attempt to overreach the orders passed by this Court with impunity, and to cast aspersions on the State Government in a proceeding where no opportunity has been given to the State to investigate into any alleged offence, thereby usurping their powers in a cavalier manner." The state government said the division bench failed to appreciate that reliefs sought by ED in the said application before the single judge is completely unrelated to the reliefs sought in the writ petition filed by the candidates of Teachers Eligibility Test- 2014 (‘TET-2014’) seeking directions for furnishing information related to the said examination and investigation by an independent agency.
"Therefore, the division bench erred in law by refusing to grant the interim relief of stay on the impugned directions passed by the Single Judge, which is in teeth of the law laid down by this Court, and even when the Single Judge did not have the roster/determination to hear matters either relating to criminal proceedings or relating to municipal authorities, thereby transgressing its powers and jurisdiction, which makes the impugned order ex-facie illegal," the appeal said.
It said the division bench of the high court has failed to appreciate that law and order is a state subject, and the state police have the primacy to investigate any cognizable offence committed within its territorial jurisdiction.
"Though the Constitutional Courts are empowered to transfer the investigation to CBI, such powers should be exercised sparingly and only in rare cases, which is not the case at hand, by any stretch of imagination. Therefore, the division bench failed to appreciate that any directions passed to the contrary are prima facie illegal and the investigation conducted by CBI and ED pursuant to such directions should be immediately stayed," it said.
This is the second round of litigation in the top court by the state government in the matter.
On April 28, the top court, while hearing an appeal against the April 21 order of the single judge of the high court, had asked the state government to file a review petition in the high court.
The state government filed a plea seeking review of the April 21 order before the high court, which was dismissed on May 12 by another single judge bench.
The May 12 order was again challenged by the state government before the division bench, which on May 22 refused to grant interim stay on the April 21 order.
The alleged scam relates to irregularities in recruitment of clerks, sweepers, peons, drivers, etc in various municipalities in West Bengal.
Ayan Sil, an accused in the school jobs for bribes scam, was also involved in alleged illegalities in the municipal recruitment racket case.
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