The Calcutta High Court today lifted a stay on the publication and distribution of textbooks for higher secondary students and pulled up the state government for erroneously interfering in the tender process.
The order came as a relief for thousands of higher secondary students,whose classes had begun nearly a month ago but they had still not got their textbooks because of the legal battle regarding the tender process for the books initiated by the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education.
The HS Council had floated a tender earlier this year for publication and distribution of eight textbooks. A total of 15 publishers across the country had participated in the tender process and on May 16 the HS Council awarded the contract to two reputable publishers.
However,Punascha,a Kolkata-based publisher,challenged the tender process in the high court when it did not get the contract. Following this,the court stayed the the tender process on July 10.
Today Justice Sanjib Banerjee said that prima facie the school education department had erroneously interfered in the tender process of the HS Council,violating legal provisions.
After the contract was awarded to the two publishers,the secretary of the school education department wrote a letter to the HS Council on May 29 alleging that there were irregularities in the tender process. The secretary,Arnab Roy,issued directives to the HS Council to reconsider the tender process in the presence of three observers appointed by the school department. Following this,the HS Council awarded the contract to two other publishers to publish and distribute the textbooks. Punascha then approached the court for not getting the contract.
Justice Banerjee today directed the state government and HS Council to file an affidavit within two weeks. Justice Banerjee also said that all the records of the tender process would have to be produced in court during the next hearing.
HS Council president Muktinath Chatterjee said it came as a great relief to him that the students would finally get textbooks. Chatterjee indicated that there was pressure from the school education department to revise the tender process. However,there was no illegality in the process and he was ready to face any kind of inquiry,Chatterjee asserted.