Minister Partha Chatterjee on Wednesday spent more than eight hours at a CBI office in the city, where he was questioned for alleged irregularities in recruitments by the School Service Commission (SSC) when he was in charge of the education department.
Chatterjee was supposed to reach the Nizam Palace office of the central investigation agency at 11am. He turned up around 10.40 in the morning and took an elevator to reach the 14th floor office of the Anti-Crime Branch.
He stepped out around 7.10pm. In between, the minister was offered a half-an-hour break.
CBI sleuths had questioned Chatterjee last week, too.
Senior officers said the questions centered around Chatterjee's role in setting up an advisory panel, whether he had issued any written direction to his then personal secretary to set up the committee and whether he was aware of the allegedly illegal appointment of Ankita Adhikary, daughter of minister of state for education Paresh Adhikary, as an assistant teacher at a government-aided school.
Officers said the interrogation team wanted to know what prompted the setting up of the advisory committee. “Chatterjee was asked whe-ther it was his decision or whe-ther someone had prodded him to do so,” said an officer.
The officers said the team questioning Chatterjee was armed with statements of Shanti Prasad Sinha, former chief advisor of the SSC, and Adhikary, MLA from Mekhliganj in Cooch Behar.
The CBI questioned Adhikary for three days last week. “We have recorded Partha Chatterjee’s statements. After going through them, we will decide if he needs to be summoned again," a CBI officer said.
A senior CBI officer of the rank of joint director had flown in for Wednesday’s session.
Chatterjee refused to speak to journalists while leaving Nizam Palace late in the evening.
Sources said the interrogators wanted to know from Chatterjee whether he was aware about the letters the advisory panel had allegedly issued, which led to the controversial recruitment of teachers and other staff in government-aided schools across the state.
“Chatterjee’s answers to several questions were vague. Some of the questions had to be asked over and over again before his statements were recorded,” an officer said.
Sources said the CBI team questioning Chatterjee kept referring to the report submitted by a committee headed by Justice Ranjit Bag, a former judge of Calcutta High Court, who had been appointed by a high court division bench to probe the allegations.
The report has said that at least 609 appointments were made to Group C and D posts in schools based on “fake” recommendation letters, lawyers have said.