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Explained: TMC's Partha Chatterjee and ED Probe Into West Bengal SSC Scam

Chatterjee was the WB education minister when the alleged scam in the recruitment of teachers took place.

Updated
India
6 min read
Explained: TMC's Partha Chatterjee and ED Probe Into West Bengal SSC Scam
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In what the Trinamool Congress (TMC) alleges is a "ploy" by the central government, now-sacked TMC leader Partha Chatterjee was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on Saturday, 23 July, in connection with an alleged scam related to the recruitment of teachers in the state.

Subsequently, in a series of raid, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday recovered Rs 27.9 crore in cash along with gold jewellery from an apartment of Arpita Mukherjee, a close aide of arrested West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee.

The ED had earlier said that cash amounting to Rs 20 crore had been recovered from Mukherjee's Belghoria flat on Wednesday.

However, Chatterjee was removed from all party posts and suspended from the TMC, soon after he was sacked from the Mamata Banerjee Cabinet, party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said.

The ED alleged wrongdoings by the senior minister in the case, as he held the education portfolio in the state government when the scam allegedly took place.

Explained: TMC's Partha Chatterjee and ED Probe Into West Bengal SSC Scam

  1. 1. Who Is Partha Chatterjee? Why Was He Sacked?

    Amid clamour from opposition parties over the alleged misuse of central agencies to carry out "vendetta politics," the arrest of Chatterjee gains immense significance.

    A once-senior minister in one of the most powerful regional parties in the country, Chatterjee, on Thursday was suspended from the Trinamool Congress, hours after being sacked from the state Cabinet.

    "Partha Chatterjee has been removed from the TMC, along with the post of general secretary, national vice president and three other posts. He has been suspended till the investigation is underway. He can come back if proven not guilty."
    Trinamool Congress General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee

    He indicated that the decision was taken by TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee.

    Not only was Chatterjee a veteran minister in the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government, but was also considered no 3 in the party as he held the post of general secretary, which is considered lower than only the chief minister and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, the party's national general secretary.

    Chatterjee, a five-time MLA from the Behala Paschim constituency, is in many respects CM Banerjee's 'right-hand man'.

    The 69-year-old leader played a myriad roles in the party's organisational structure – from presiding over its district committees to brainstorming strategies for elections.

    Before he joined politics, he worked at the Andrew Yule Group, a manufacturing and industrial conglomerate.

    His foray into politics came after Banerjee created the TMC in 1998 after breaking away from the Congress.

    He was elected as an MLA for the first time from Behala Paschim in 2001 and has never lost the seat since.

    The veteran leader also served as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) from 2006 to 2011 during the rule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the state.

    When the TMC stormed to power in 2011, breaking the hegemony of the Left Front after its 34-year-rule, Chatterjee was given several key responsibilities in the Cabinet, which included heading departments of industry, information technology, and parliamentary affairs among others.

    In 2014, the leader was made the minister of higher and school education of the state – a post he held for seven years until he was replaced by Bratya Basu.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Is the Alleged Teacher Recruitment Scam?

    The scam allegedly occurred when Chatterjee was in charge of state education as a minister.

    It involved alleged irregularities in the recruitment of Group C and D staff as well as teachers in government-sponsored and aided schools on recommendations of the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC).

    The charge levelled against Chatterjee is that he provided jobs in exchange for money to those candidates who had obtained lower marks in the exam over those who had cleared the exam on merit.

    The Calcutta High Court also ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the matter, in connection with which the senior minister was questioned twice earlier this year.

    An inquiry committee that was constituted to look into the scam claimed that more than 600 staff members of Group D had been illegally recruited.

    In 2016, the West Bengal government issued a notification to the SSC to recruit 13,000 Group D employees for state-aided/run schools. In 2019, the panel making the appointments expired, but despite that, several people were allegedly appointed by the WBBSE.

    Four unsuccessful candidates had moved the Calcutta High Court, alleging that 523 candidates had been appointed after the panel expired.

    As per an inquiry committee constituted by a division bench in 2021, a total of 381 candidates had been recruited illegally in Group C. The committee also alleged that a panel appointed by the Joint Secretary to the West Bengal government to oversee the recruitment of around 13,000 non-teaching staff did not have any legal validity.

    The report further claimed that the ranks of some candidates had been changed in 2019.

    Hundreds of unsuccessful students had taken to the streets to protest in Kolkata, demanding jobs in Groups C and D.

    Despite assurances by the West Bengal CM to take appropriate action, the students did not relent and said they would continue protesting until their demands are met.
    Expand
  3. 3. WB MoS Paresh Adhikari's Alleged Involvement

    A petitioner named Babita Sarkar had also filed a case against Ankita Adhikari, the daughter of West Bengal Minister of State (MoS), Education, Paresh Adhikari, claiming that Ankita's name was on the merit list despite there being more deserving candidates.

    For the teacher's recruitment, Sarkar was ranked 20th in the merit list, but her rank was later changed to 21st when Adhikari was featured on the list.

    Subsequently, Ankita was made a teacher of political science in a government school in Cooch Behar.

    The CBI had filed an FIR against the father-daughter duo in May this year. They were charged under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) related to criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence.

    A single-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court had also ordered the dismissal of Ankita from her post in Cooch Behar. Further, she was also ordered to return her salary for 43 months to the high court's registrar.

    During overnight raids on Friday, Adhikari's home had also been searched by the ED in connection with the probe. However, the minister claimed that he had not been informed about the ED's visit.

    "They did not intimate us about the visit to our house today. I am in Kolkata in connection with the July 21 Martyrs' Day rally of the TMC. Had I been around, I would have treated them to muri (puffed rice)," the minister said.

    Expand
  4. 4. Rs 50 Crore Cash Seized From Chatterjee Aide Arpita Mukerjee’s House

    The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday, 28 July, recovered Rs 27.9 crore in cash along with gold jewellery from an apartment of Arpita Mukherjee, an aide of Partha Chatterjee.

    The ED had earlier said that cash amounting to Rs 20 crore had been recovered from Mukherjee's Belghoria flat on Wednesday.

    In total, around Rs 50 crore in cash has been seized by the central agency so far, news agency PTI reported officials as saying.

    Meanwhile, Mukherjee has been remanded in the ED's custody for 10 days. She will be produced on 3 August for the next hearing in the case.

    The actor has been a part of some Bengali, Odia, and Tamil films. She is known most for her roles in Bengali films Jeet (2008) and Mama Bhagne (2009).

    She was also a part of promotional campaigns in support of Chatterjee's popular Durga Puja committee, 'Naktala Udayan Sangha'.

    Expand
  5. 5. 'Ploy by BJP': TMC Slams Raids

    TMC leader Madan Mitra described the raids by the probe agency as "unnecessary."

    "I've been called by CBI, ED not less than 100 times. Partha Chatterjee (former education minister) is a very responsible and known politician of West Bengal... It (ED reaching his residence) was not needed, he was not absconding," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

    The TMC also called the concerted raids a "ploy" by the BJP government at the Centre to harass political opponents.

    "This raid by ED, a day after the spectacular Martyrs' Day rally that created ripples all over the country, is nothing but an attempt to harass and intimidate leaders of the TMC," said WB Transport Minister and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim.

    "The CBI has already interrogated them (ministers) as part of a court directive and they are cooperating. Now, the ED is being invoked only to discredit them. The money laundering issue is being invented by the BJP," he added.

    (With inputs from ANI.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Who Is Partha Chatterjee? Why Was He Sacked?

Amid clamour from opposition parties over the alleged misuse of central agencies to carry out "vendetta politics," the arrest of Chatterjee gains immense significance.

A once-senior minister in one of the most powerful regional parties in the country, Chatterjee, on Thursday was suspended from the Trinamool Congress, hours after being sacked from the state Cabinet.

"Partha Chatterjee has been removed from the TMC, along with the post of general secretary, national vice president and three other posts. He has been suspended till the investigation is underway. He can come back if proven not guilty."
Trinamool Congress General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee

He indicated that the decision was taken by TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee.

Not only was Chatterjee a veteran minister in the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government, but was also considered no 3 in the party as he held the post of general secretary, which is considered lower than only the chief minister and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, the party's national general secretary.

Chatterjee, a five-time MLA from the Behala Paschim constituency, is in many respects CM Banerjee's 'right-hand man'.

The 69-year-old leader played a myriad roles in the party's organisational structure – from presiding over its district committees to brainstorming strategies for elections.

Before he joined politics, he worked at the Andrew Yule Group, a manufacturing and industrial conglomerate.

His foray into politics came after Banerjee created the TMC in 1998 after breaking away from the Congress.

He was elected as an MLA for the first time from Behala Paschim in 2001 and has never lost the seat since.

The veteran leader also served as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) from 2006 to 2011 during the rule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the state.

When the TMC stormed to power in 2011, breaking the hegemony of the Left Front after its 34-year-rule, Chatterjee was given several key responsibilities in the Cabinet, which included heading departments of industry, information technology, and parliamentary affairs among others.

In 2014, the leader was made the minister of higher and school education of the state – a post he held for seven years until he was replaced by Bratya Basu.

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What Is the Alleged Teacher Recruitment Scam?

The scam allegedly occurred when Chatterjee was in charge of state education as a minister.

It involved alleged irregularities in the recruitment of Group C and D staff as well as teachers in government-sponsored and aided schools on recommendations of the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC).

The charge levelled against Chatterjee is that he provided jobs in exchange for money to those candidates who had obtained lower marks in the exam over those who had cleared the exam on merit.

The Calcutta High Court also ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the matter, in connection with which the senior minister was questioned twice earlier this year.

An inquiry committee that was constituted to look into the scam claimed that more than 600 staff members of Group D had been illegally recruited.

In 2016, the West Bengal government issued a notification to the SSC to recruit 13,000 Group D employees for state-aided/run schools. In 2019, the panel making the appointments expired, but despite that, several people were allegedly appointed by the WBBSE.

Four unsuccessful candidates had moved the Calcutta High Court, alleging that 523 candidates had been appointed after the panel expired.

As per an inquiry committee constituted by a division bench in 2021, a total of 381 candidates had been recruited illegally in Group C. The committee also alleged that a panel appointed by the Joint Secretary to the West Bengal government to oversee the recruitment of around 13,000 non-teaching staff did not have any legal validity.

The report further claimed that the ranks of some candidates had been changed in 2019.

Hundreds of unsuccessful students had taken to the streets to protest in Kolkata, demanding jobs in Groups C and D.

Despite assurances by the West Bengal CM to take appropriate action, the students did not relent and said they would continue protesting until their demands are met.

WB MoS Paresh Adhikari's Alleged Involvement

A petitioner named Babita Sarkar had also filed a case against Ankita Adhikari, the daughter of West Bengal Minister of State (MoS), Education, Paresh Adhikari, claiming that Ankita's name was on the merit list despite there being more deserving candidates.

For the teacher's recruitment, Sarkar was ranked 20th in the merit list, but her rank was later changed to 21st when Adhikari was featured on the list.

Subsequently, Ankita was made a teacher of political science in a government school in Cooch Behar.

The CBI had filed an FIR against the father-daughter duo in May this year. They were charged under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) related to criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence.

A single-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court had also ordered the dismissal of Ankita from her post in Cooch Behar. Further, she was also ordered to return her salary for 43 months to the high court's registrar.

During overnight raids on Friday, Adhikari's home had also been searched by the ED in connection with the probe. However, the minister claimed that he had not been informed about the ED's visit.

"They did not intimate us about the visit to our house today. I am in Kolkata in connection with the July 21 Martyrs' Day rally of the TMC. Had I been around, I would have treated them to muri (puffed rice)," the minister said.

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Rs 50 Crore Cash Seized From Chatterjee Aide Arpita Mukerjee’s House

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday, 28 July, recovered Rs 27.9 crore in cash along with gold jewellery from an apartment of Arpita Mukherjee, an aide of Partha Chatterjee.

The ED had earlier said that cash amounting to Rs 20 crore had been recovered from Mukherjee's Belghoria flat on Wednesday.

In total, around Rs 50 crore in cash has been seized by the central agency so far, news agency PTI reported officials as saying.

Meanwhile, Mukherjee has been remanded in the ED's custody for 10 days. She will be produced on 3 August for the next hearing in the case.

The actor has been a part of some Bengali, Odia, and Tamil films. She is known most for her roles in Bengali films Jeet (2008) and Mama Bhagne (2009).

She was also a part of promotional campaigns in support of Chatterjee's popular Durga Puja committee, 'Naktala Udayan Sangha'.

'Ploy by BJP': TMC Slams Raids

TMC leader Madan Mitra described the raids by the probe agency as "unnecessary."

"I've been called by CBI, ED not less than 100 times. Partha Chatterjee (former education minister) is a very responsible and known politician of West Bengal... It (ED reaching his residence) was not needed, he was not absconding," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The TMC also called the concerted raids a "ploy" by the BJP government at the Centre to harass political opponents.

"This raid by ED, a day after the spectacular Martyrs' Day rally that created ripples all over the country, is nothing but an attempt to harass and intimidate leaders of the TMC," said WB Transport Minister and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim.

"The CBI has already interrogated them (ministers) as part of a court directive and they are cooperating. Now, the ED is being invoked only to discredit them. The money laundering issue is being invented by the BJP," he added.

(With inputs from ANI.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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