regular-article-logo Saturday, 13 July 2024

Stay for now: Editorial on SC staying Calcutta High Court’s order on West Bengal teachers’ appointment

The bench even admonished counsel for bringing up the name of the former judge of Calcutta HC, Abhijit Gangopadhyay, who is now the Bharatiya Janata Party's LS candidate from Tamluk

The Editorial Board Published 13.05.24, 06:39 AM
Supreme Court.

Supreme Court. File Photo.

The interim stay imposed by the Supreme Court on the Calcutta High Court’s order to cancel the appointments of over 23,000 teachers and non-teaching staff members appointed by the School Service Commission in 2016 does not mean a clean chit. Although the Supreme Court’s stay seemed to indicate that the three-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India preferred to have the legitimate appointments separated from the irregular ones; the CJI mentioned "systemic fraud". Separating the lawful appointments was the first goal: public jobs were scarce and if these were "maligned" because of systemic fraud, people would lose faith. Blanket sacking would be the last resort. The Supreme Court was not unmindful of the consequences of such cancellation. There is also a practical side to this. This last was part of the special leave petition of the West Bengal government to the Supreme Court: the school system in the state would break down. But the irregular appointments were not to be spared. Once weeded out, these candidates would have to leave and also return their salaries.

The West Bengal government may have felt a moment of relief, but it should see the stern reasonableness of the Supreme Court’s ruling as a sharp lesson. No procedure for identifying irregular appointments has been formulated yet; perhaps it will emerge in the next hearing on July 16. The court, in spite of temporarily staying the wholesale sacking, had incisive questions for the SSC that suggested the possible routes of corruption. The bench even admonished counsel for bringing up the name of the former judge of the Calcutta High Court, Abhijit Gangopadhyay, who is now the Bharatiya Janata Party's Lok Sabha candidate from Tamluk. Besides, the Supreme Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to continue investigating the scandal without doing anything precipitate. A ruling in a matter that touches on officers of the state government in a politically charged atmosphere needs to be perceivably just and neutral. Neither the gratitude of the state government nor the speculative triumphalism of its challengers is relevant here. Even if, as the Bengal education minister has said, the perpetrators are all in prison now and all transparency will be maintained, enormous damage has already been done. Undoing it will be the government’s — and the SSC’s — challenge.

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