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West Bengal recruitment scam: Calcutta High Court orders transfer of Special CBI judge for harassing SIT members

The Calcutta High Court has ordered transfer of the Special CBI judge at Alipore for ‘harassing’ members of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the recruitment scam in West Bengal.

The single-judge Bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay came down heavily on Special CBI judge at Alipore Arpan Chatterjee after CBI DIG & SIT head Ashwin Shenvi submitted that SIT members investigating the recruitment scam were being sent for inquiry to the Kolkata Police by Chatterjee.

The Bench said the Judge has no business to send the SIT to Kolkata Police for inquiry. Both the police authorities and such Judge, should keep in mind that as this SIT has been constituted by this court, they have no business to send the officers of SIT for inquiry to such police authority. Zero tolerance to corruption should be there in letter and spirit and it should not remain only a slogan in the mouth of the most corrupt persons.

On earlier occasions, a co-ordinate bench of Justice Amrita Sinha had also passed orders protecting members of the SIT from coercive steps by the Kolkata Police in respect of a complaint filed by an accused complaining of custodial torture.

In this case, the Court had sought personal appearance of CBI DIG & SIT head Ashwin Shenvi due to the slow progress of the investigation.

Shenvi submitted that the SIT was being impeded by orders of the Special CBI judge who was not only sending members of the SIT for inquiry to the Kolkata Police, but was also directing the arrest of persons identified by the CBI as witnesses, leading to crucial evidence not being recorded.

Upon hearing such submissions, the Bench expressed its anger and directed all authorities under the Government of West Bengal not to make or entertain any complaint either against the head of the SIT or any member of the SIT constituted by this court without the leave of this court as, in reply to my question.

During the course of the hearing it was noted that the special CBI judge had a pending transfer order, which had not yet been cleared, prompting the bench to remark I wonder why the transfer order has not been given effect to. Whose hand is upon the head of the present CBI Judge (acting) for which transfer of a new inequivalent has not been made?

The Bench had directed for the transfer to be effected by 4th October and that no further CBI or ED matters be taken up by the concerned judge till then. However, later the same evening, the Law Minister appeared before Court and submitted that due to his ill-health he was not able to clear the transfer of the concerned judge, and that the same would be done by 6th December.

On the issue of the special judge allegedly interfering with the identification of witnesses by the SIT, the Court remarked I do not know what is the reason of this over enthusiasm of said CBI Special Court Judge who is acting there. Instead of protecting the witnesses, he has acted detrimentally to the investigation. CBI says, after this incident nobody is opening their mouth in apprehension that they would also be arrested by the order of the CBI court if they became witnesses.

It was further clarified that any witnesses identified in the recruitment scam would henceforth be arrested only under the orders of the CBI and ED, and the Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal was directed to inform the Chief Minister that no person shall file complaints against the SIT members without leave of the Court.

Finally, he directed the various investigative agencies as well as the West Bengal Primary Education Board to file their respective reports by 18th October.

(Case title: Santanu Sit and Ors vs The State of West Bengal & Ors)

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