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WB school jobs scam: SC stays HC order imposing Rs 25 lakh cost on TMC MP

SC stayed imposition of Rs 25 lakh cost on TMC Abhishek by HC which had dismissed his plea for recall of its previous order that CBI and ED could interrogate him in WB school jobs scam cases

Supreme Court rules that Benami law cannot be applied retrospectively, says Supreme Court.

Press Trust of India New Delhi

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The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the imposition of Rs 25 lakh cost on TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee by the Calcutta High Court which had dismissed his plea for recall of its previous order that CBI and ED could interrogate him in the West Bengal school jobs scam cases.
The top court, however, did not stay at this stage the part of the high court order which had said that central probe agencies could quiz the Trinamool Congress general secretary in connection with these cases and fixed his plea for hearing in July.
Abhishek Banerjee is the nephew of TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
An apex court vacation bench comprising Justices J K Maheshwari and P S Narasimha termed the high court's order "very balanced and fair" and observed that imposition of a cost of Rs 25 lakh was "perhaps not warranted".
"But then, it does not mean that no cost can be imposed at all... I think the order is very balanced and fair," Justice Narasimha observed.
The Calcutta High Court in its May 18 order had dismissed a petition filed by Banerjee, a Lok Sabha MP, seeking recall of its previous order which said probe agencies such as the CBI and ED could interrogate him in the case.
"List the matter in the week commencing July 10, 2023. Until the next date of hearing, imposition of the costs under the impugned order shall remain stayed," the apex court bench said.
Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Banerjee, referred to the high court order and said there were "errors apparent" in it.
On April 28, the apex court had asked the Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court to reassign the West Bengal school jobs scam case to another judge, days after voicing displeasure over Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay's interview to a TV news channel where he spoke about the raging controversy.
During the hearing on Friday, the bench observed that after the apex court's order, the matter was assigned to another bench which passed orders on the applications, including those filed by Banerjee.
"The court said as far as the investigation part is concerned, we can't interfere. How far it is wrong?" the bench said.
It said the points raised in the applications were considered by the high court which then concluded that interference was not warranted.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate (ED), said the agency has the power to investigate independently and this cannot be usurped.
The bench said both sides can advance their arguments on the next date of hearing.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for the state of West Bengal in the matter.
"A new trend has started. The state comes in. In the Chhattisgarh matter, the state came in. In West Bengal matter, the state came in," Raju said, adding that it is "collusion".
On May 22, the apex court agreed to hear on May 26 Abhishek Banerjee's plea against the high court order.
While mentioning the matter before the top court on May 22, Singhvi had said Banerjee has already been quizzed for over nine hours by the CBI and the TMC leader is apprehending that he may be arrested if called again for questioning by the agency.
"I (Banerjee) am asking for no coercive step," Singhvi had told the bench while requesting it to list the matter for hearing this week.
Banerjee, who was on May 20 questioned for over nine hours by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the probe into the case, has sought the apex court's direction that no coercive steps be taken against him by the probe agency.
The TMC leader's name cropped up in a complaint filed by Kuntal Ghosh, a local businessman and an accused in the school jobs scam cases, where he alleged that central investigating agencies were pressuring him to name Banerjee in the case.
The agency's summons to Banerjee had come within 24 hours of the Calcutta High Court dismissing a petition filed by him seeking recall of a previous court order which said probe agencies such as the CBI and ED could interrogate him in the teacher recruitment scam case.
Banerjee had alleged that while TMC leaders who were unwilling to bend were being harassed, BJP leaders who had been involved in various cases were allowed to go scot-free.
The two-time MP from Diamond Harbour was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) twice in the coal pilferage case in the agency's office in the national capital in 2021 and also in Kolkata in 2022.
While the CBI is probing the criminal aspect of the school jobs scam cases, the ED is looking into the money trail involved in the alleged irregularities in teacher recruitment in West Bengal.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: May 26 2023 | 7:30 PM IST

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