The Justice (retired) Ranjit Bag Committee that looked into an alleged scam in recruitment for Group C and Group D posts in the School Education Department has recommended action against four West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) officials, former and current, and a senior education department officer for alleged criminal conspiracy. Based on the Committee’s report, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday filed a fresh FIR against the five.
In its report to the Calcutta High Court (HC) on May 12, the Committee, which a Division Bench of Calcutta High Court Justices Harish Tandon and Rabindranath Samanta set up on February 22, is learnt to have recommended criminal proceedings against former WBSSC chairpersons Professor Saumitra Sarkar and Ashok Kumar Saha; the organisation’s former advisor, Dr Santi Prasad Sinha; programme officer Samarjit Acharya; and West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) president Dr Kalyanmoy Ganguly.
The Committee is said to have found out that a “lack of transparency in preparation and uploading of the panel (of candidates)” on the WBSSC website “and keeping the said panel a guarded secret from the chairpersons of the Regional Commissions” helped commit the alleged fraud in the recruitment process that began in 2016.
Sarkar, Saha (WBSSC Secretary at the time of the alleged offence), and Sinha allegedly recommended the names of unsuccessful candidates in Group C posts before and after the expiry of the panel on May 18, 2019, “in the garb of increase of marks of those candidates by way of re-evaluation of OMR (answer) sheets on the basis of their applications under RTI (Right to Information Act)”. The answer sheets were allegedly destroyed after the manipulation of marks.
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The three allegedly compelled Acharya and another programme officer to fabricate WBSSC note sheets on May 14, 2019, and June 18 and June 20 “to give colour of increase of the marks of the candidates due to re-evaluation of OMR sheets on consideration of applications under RTI Act”. In other words, the note sheets were falsified to provide a veneer of legality to the entire process even though it was “in violation of the provisions of School Service Commission Rules, 2009”.
Sarkar and Sinha allegedly “collected vacancies” in an unauthorised manner — gathered information about vacancies that opened up after the recruitment exams were held — and recommended unsuccessful candidates for those posts.
Using the names that the former WBSSC advisor supplied, Acharya is said to have prepared 381 recommendation letters for unsuccessful Group C candidates (almost 250 were not even on the merit list). In Group D, the rules were allegedly bent to favour 609 unsuccessful candidates.
“Acharya has candidly admitted that he has prepared more than 300 recommendation letters in favour of unsuccessful candidates in Group C posts and more than 500 recommendation letters in favour of unsuccessful Group D candidates under the instructions of Dr Santi Prasad Sinha by using the data from the server of the Central Commission and by using scanned signatures of the chairpersons of the Regional Commissions by keeping the chairpersons of the Regional Commissions in the dark and also by manipulating memo numbers of the Regional Commissions from the computer system of the Central Commission …” said Bag Committee member and HC advocate Arunava Banerjee.
Sinha allegedly handed over a “bunch of fake recommendation letters” to WBBSE president Ganguly “on four to five occasions” after the “expiry of the panel”. The Bag Committee report is learnt to have found that Ganguly issued instructions to a subordinate for the preparation of appointment letters based on these forged letters and bypassed the “normal chain of hierarchy” and did not send the recommendation letters to the Board’s Appointment Section. Instead, the appointment letters were allegedly handed over to Ganguly himself or to the WBSSC officials who were part of the alleged scam at the Commission’s new office in Kolkata’s Salt Lake area.
“No explanation is forthcoming before us why Dr Kalyanmoy Ganguly did not follow the normal procedure of generation of appointment letters on the basis of recommendation of the School Service Commission and distribution of those appointment letters after notifying the names of the candidates in the website of the Central Commission for verification of testimonials and for collection of appointment letter on the notified date from the office of the Board or any other notified venue,” the Committee report is learnt to have said.
These actions, the Bag Committee reportedly said, indicate that Ganguly was “hand in glove” with Sinha “in making appointment letters on the basis of fake recommendations”.
The CBI, in keeping with the Committee’s recommendations, has booked Sarkar, Saha, Sinha, and Ganguly under IPC Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy). It has also invoked IPC Sections 465 (forgery), 417 (cheating), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) against Sinha and Acharya.
Responding to the allegations against him, Saumitra Sarkar told The Indian Express, “I have not seen the Bag Committee report yet. We had to publish the panel after the expiry because of a court order. But I do not know how the names of new candidates came into the list.”
Denying the allegations, Ganguly said, “The Board has no power to make recommendation letters. It basically works as a post office. We got the recommendation letters and as per the rules we distributed them. I do not know anything more than that.”
While Sinha declined to speak to The Indian Express, Acharya and Saha could not be reached for comments.
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