ED arrests Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee in job scam

Mr. Chatterjee sent to two-day custody; two aides held

July 23, 2022 11:41 am | Updated July 24, 2022 01:17 am IST - Kolkata

West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee is brought to a court after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in Kolkata on July 23, 2022.

West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee is brought to a court after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in Kolkata on July 23, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Enforcement Directorate on Saturday arrested West Bengal Industries and Commerce Minister and senior Trinamool Congress leader, Partha Chatterjee, in connection with irregularities in recruitment to the West Bengal School Service Commission. Mr. Chattterjee had been the Minister of State Education Department when the alleged irregularities occurred. 

After almost 24 hours of questioning, Mr. Chatterjee was arrested from his resident in south Kolkata on Saturday morning. He was then taken to a government health facility in Joka for medical tests and later produced before a city court, which offered ED custody of the Minister till Monday, July 25.

Mr. Chattterjee is also the secretary-general of Trinamool Congress and holds the portfolio of Parliament Affairs Department. He is the among the most high profile TMC functionary to be arrested by a central agency.

On Friday, the agency seized cash and jewellery worth ₹20 crore from the residence of the Minister’s associate, Arpita Mukherjee, after conducting searches at several places in West Bengal. “The said amount is suspected to be proceeds of crime of said SSC (School Service Commission) Scam,” a statement by ED said. On Saturday, the value of the items seized increased to ₹21.20 crore. Images of piles of cash recovered, which were transport in large trunks, have gone viral on social media. Mr. Mukherjee, along with Suknata Acharjee, an officer of the West Bengal government and also a close aide of Mr. Chatterjee, were arrested by the ED later in the day.

The residence of the incumbent Minister of State for Education Paresh Chandra Adhikary in Cooch Behar district was also searched. So was the residence of Manik Bhattacharya, former president of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education Board, and a number of current and formal officials with alleged links to the scam.

Will take action if Minister is found guilty: TMC

While the TMC leadership leadership has distanced itself from one of its senior-most functionaries, its spokesperson, Kunal Ghosh, said that the party will take action against Mr. Chatterjee if he were found to be guilty. Party leaders declared in a press conference that it had nothing to do with Ms. Mukherjee or the cash recovered from her house. Not surprisingly, Mr. Chatterjee has not been able to reach the party chairperson and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

After the arrest, Opposition parties targeted the State government, with BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar reaching out to the students engaged in protests over the issue for over 450 days. These students, mostly those who have cleared the SSC recruitment exam, have been demanding jobs.

CBI probe after court directive

Mr. Chatterjee and Mr. Adhikary were both questioned multiple times by the CBI in connection with the scam, after the Calcutta High Court directed the investigation agency to look into the recruitment scam while hearing writ petitions over the issue. The alleged irregularities in the recruitment of Group C & D staff, assistant teachers of classes IX-XII and primary teachers, involved handing out appointments in exchange for money while depriving candidates who had qualified in the recruitment process of a job. Recently, the court also directed that Mr. Adhikary’s daughter, who got a job in a State-run school by ignoring merit, be sacked.

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