The division bench of Calcutta High Court headed by Justice Harish Tandon on Monday refused to hear any matter related to the West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC).
Soon thereafter, two other division benches of the high court declined to hear appeals moved by four former members of the commission’s advisory committee against an order passed by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhay of the court.
Justice Gangopadhyay had directed the CBI to interrogate the four former members in connection with alleged corruption in the recruitment of teachers and Group C and Group D staff for secondary schools by the SSC.
Finally, towards the end of the working hours, the appeals came up before Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava to be assigned to some other division bench.
The chief justice refused prayers by lawyers appearing for the four for an ad-interim stay on the order passed by Justice Gangyopadhyay.
The four appellants waited in the courtroom till 4.45pm. But as the chief justice did not pass any stay, they left without a legal shield.
The four are 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; former education secretary A.K. Sarkar and the education department's law officer T. Panja.
After Justice Tandon’s division bench refused to hear any SSC-related matter, the division benches headed by Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya and Justice Soumen Sen refused to hear the appeals moved by the four former members of the advisory committee seeking a stay on Justice Gangopadhyay’s order.
Problem started with three orders for a CBI investigation issued by Justice Gangopadhyay following as many petitions alleging corruption in appointments made by the SSC.
All three orders were stayed by the division bench headed by Justice Tandon.
In a related case, Justice Gangopadhyay had asked S.P. Sinha, former chief of the SSC advisory committee, to furnish details of his properties.
Following an appeal by Sinha, Justice Tandon's division bench modified the order and allowed the petitioner to submit the details in a sealed cover.
Justice Gangopadhyay criticised the role of the division bench in open court and asked the CBI to call Sinha to their office and interrogate him by midnight that day to find out about the alleged recruitment scam.
Justice Gangyopadhay’s reaction raised questions in legal circles, with experts wondering whether a single-bench judge could criticise the role of a division bench or whether a single bench can pass an order bypassing a division bench’s ruling.
On Tuesday, the West Bengal Bar Council and the Bar Association of Calcutta High Court had issued letters to the chief justice seeking his intervention.
“What is going on in the high court is not desirable. We want an end to this controversy. So we want to meet the Chief Justice,” they wrote.
Senior lawyers in the high court are of the opinion that the CBI could question the four members of the advisory committee as there was no stay on the order.
While hearing the petitions alleging that recruitment of staff were made on the basis of false recommendations, Justice Gangopadhyay had suspected malpractices by the SSC and ordered CBI investigations.