The Supreme Court has ordered the continuation of CBI investigation into the matter of irregularities in the recruitment process of the Assistant Primary Teachers in West Bengal.

"..considering the submission of learned counsel for the CBI and the fact that investigation by the said agency has substantially progressed, we do not want to stall such investigation at this stage and wait to see if the State Police can carry on the same investigation impartially", the Bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Vikram Nath held.

The Bench, however, stayed the order of the single judge of the High Court removing the Appellant- Dr. Manik Bhattacharya as the President of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education, until further order and stayed the order of cancellation of 269 candidates by the Single Judge and gave them the entitlement of filing affidavits to defend their appointment to the respective posts.

The Court also observed that "the reasons given by the learned Single Judge in directing investigation by the CBI at such an early stage of the proceeding may fall short of the standards laid down in the case of Sampat Lal".

Senior Advocates Meenakshi Arora, Jaideep Gupta, Mukul Rohatgi, Guru Krishna Kumar, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, Mahesh Jethmalani, Sonia Mathur, Vikas Singh and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General, S.V. Raju appeared for parties in the matter.

Facts of the case

Recruitment took place through the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) examination 2014 which was held in the year 2015.

In total, around 23 lakh candidates participated in the selection process having 43,000 vacancies and about 43,000 candidates were appointed for the same.

CBI was directed to register a case and take such steps in relation to the OMR sheets of the candidates of the examination.

In the first writ petition filed in the year 2019, the petitioners sought cancellation of the appointment of the private respondent alleging corruption in the process of selection rather than based on merit and performance.

In another writ petition, non-disclosure of certain information relating to 68 candidates pertaining to answer scripts was alleged by the petitioners.

There were also other writ petitions being filed that questioned the legality of the recruitment process.

The Single Judge ordered the following:

1. CBI Investigation by registering a case against the Board and interrogation of the President of the Board.

2. Invalidation of appointment of 269 candidates who were not parties in either of the two writ petitions.

3. Dr. Manik Bhattacharya is responsible for misleading Court having made a dishonest and unscrupulous attempt in producing documents and hence, being removed from the post of President of the WB Board.

The Division Bench held that the entire investigation shall be monitored by the Court and 269 terminated candidates cannot severally or jointly claim a prior right to be heard at this stage.

The Supreme Court relying on the case of Divine Retreat Centre v. State of Kerala and Others stressed upon the principles of natural justice in this case.

The Apex Court observed that "As regards the case of President of the Board, our view is that the order of his removal by the High Court was flawed, not fulfilling the requirement of procedural fairness that is necessary to direct removal of a person from a public post."

The Court gave special attention to the principle of providing an appropriate opportunity to defend one's position in such a matter.

"The CBI under the SIT shall continue their investigation as directed by the Single Judge and file a comprehensive report before this Court within a period of four weeks as regards progress of the investigation" the Court directed.

The Court also stayed the order of cancellation of 269 candidates by the Single Judge and gave them the entitlement of filing affidavits to defend their appointment to the respective posts.

The Court ordered that "The order removing Dr. Manik Bhattacharya passed by the Single Judge and confirmed by the Division Bench shall remain stayed until further order of this Court."

"Dr. Manik Bhattacharya shall be entitled to defend his position in the writ petition by filing affidavits in respect of allegations made against him. We have protected Dr. Manik Bhattacharya from any coercive steps that may have been taken by the CBI in course of the investigation", the Court further ordered.

The matters have been listed after four weeks.

Cause Title- Dr. Manik Bhattacharya v. Ramesh Malik & Ors.

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