A high court division bench on Tuesday asked S.P. Sinha, former chairman of the School Service Commission’s advisory committee, and former education secretary Alok Sarkar to appear before the CBI as directed by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the court but barred the agency from arresting them.
The division bench headed by Justice Subrata Talukdar, which issued the order, also agreed to hear cases related to alleged illegal appointment of teachers and other staff for secondary schools by the School Service Commission (SSC).
Four other division benches of the court had refused to hear cases related to SSC before the matter came up before Justice Talukdar’s bench.
Also during the day, the CBI submitted a report, prepared after questioning Sinha and four other former members of the advisory committee of the SSC, in Justice Gangopadhyay’s court in a sealed cover. After going through the report, Justice Gangopadhyay said: “It seems Sinha had masterminded the whole episode in which Alok Sarkar was also involved.”
The judge directed the officer in charge of Survey Park police station to ensure Sinha was at the CBI headquarters at 3pm. Sarkar was also ordered to go there to face questioning.
“The other two former members of the committee… will go to the CBI office one hour thereafter and face interrogation,” Justice Gangopadhyay said.
Besides Sinha, Justice Gangopadhyay had ordered the CBI to question four other former members of the advisory committee — Sarkar; S. Acharya, who was personal secretary to Partha Chatterjee when he was education minister; P.K. Bandyopadhyay, who was an officer on special duty in the education department when Chatterjee was education minister; and the education department’s law officer T. Panja.
Justice Gangopadhyay gave the CBI the liberty to take Sinha into custody. But Justice Talukdar stayed that.
Justice Gangopadhyay asked the CBI to present a progress report by 4pm on Wednesday. The judge asked Sarkar, Acharya, Bandyopadhyay and Panja to submit their property details in the court on Monday.
Justice Gangopadhyay’s fresh order put the five accused in a spot. Their lawyers were frantically seeking a stay on the day's order and repeatedly approached the chief justice. At one point, the chief justice angrily told the lawyers to keep norms in mind.
Around 3pm, the chief justice announced that the division bench headed by Justice Talukdar would hear the appeals and the other SSC-related cases.
When the lawyers approached Justice Talukdar, he said he would only hear the appeals filed by Sinha and Sarkar on Tuesday. The other matters will be taken up on Wednesday.
When the appeals by Sinha and Sarkar came for hearing around 4pm, counsel representing the original petitioners in the case, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, submitted that Sinha was not cooperating with the CBI. Justice Talukdar asked Sinha to cooperate with the CBI.
On Monday, the division bench of Justice Harish Tandon, which was hearing appeals related to the appointments, refused to hear any SSC-related cases on “personal grounds”. Two other division benches, too, refused to hear the appeals.
On Monday night, the chief justice had issued an order saying the division bench headed by Justice Joymalya Bagchi would hear the SSC cases. On Tuesday, Justice Bagchi, too, excused himself saying too many cases were pending in his court.
Justice Tandon’s bench had stayed Justice Gangopadhyay’s order for a CBI probe and set up a panel to probe the allegations. Sinha appeared before the panel on Tuesday.
Narcotics, gun seized
A couple was arrested after brown sugar worth around Rs 1.4 crore was seized from them here on Monday.
Siliguri metropolitan police and a team of Bagdogra police station raided the house of the couple at Biswas Colony, a locality in Matigara, and seized around 540 grams of brown sugar, a derivative of heroin.
In another incident, a police team in Jalpaiguri district seized an improvised pistol and one round of live cartridge from Binoy Saha More of Dhupguri block and arrested a person in this connection.