Thursday, 29 September, 2022

West Bengal minister arrested over teacher recruitment scam

NEW DELHI: The Directorate of Enforcement of India has arrested West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee in connection with the teacher recruitment scam case.

Partha Chatterjee's arrest came after a marathon interrogation for over 26 hours that began on Friday morning when over a dozen documents were seized from his Naktala residence, report Times of India.

"He was not cooperating with our officers who were questioning him since Friday morning.

He’ll be produced before a court during the day," an ED official said.

Arpita Mukherjee, a close aide of the minister, has also been arrested. The ED recovered Rs 20 crore in unaccounted cash from her residence in South Kolkata a day earlier.

Sukanta Acharya, a former bureaucrat who was associated with Partha Chatterjee as his private secretary since 2011, was also questioned by the ED officials and later taken into custody.

The Trinamool minister was taken to Joka ESI Medical College Hospital for examination following his arrest. From there, he was taken to the Kolkata sessions court.

Partha Chatterjee told reporters outside the hospital that he tried to contact West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, but could not get through.

Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee said he was yet to get any information about the arrest of Partha Chatterjee from ED. He said it is obligatory on part of ED as per the Constitution to inform him about arrest of any MLA.

Partha Chatterjee was the state minister for education when the alleged scam took place and the ED is probing the money laundering aspect of those allegedly involved in it.

The agency on Friday carried out simultaneous raids on the houses of former advisor of the West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC) Shanti Prasad Sinha, ex-president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education Kalyanmoy Ganguly and nine others.

The CBI, as directed by the Calcutta High Court, is looking into the alleged irregularities committed 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. The ED is tracking the money trail in the scam.

Partha Chatterjee, currently industries and commerce minister, was also interrogated by the CBI twice earlier -- first on April 26 and then on May 18.

In its first reaction, Trinamool seemed to distance itself from the controversy. Party General Secretary and spokesman Kunal Ghosh denied any association of the party or the state government with the development, especially with the issue of recovery of huge amount of cash from the residence of Partha Chatterjee's confidante and close aide Arpita Mukherjee.

"The onus is on the person or her counsel from whose residence the huge amount of cash has been recovered," Ghosh said.

Meanwhile, the BJP said the roots of the scam go deep down to the "top-level leaders" of TMC, including the MPs and MLAs.

He added, "Yesterday, a TMC leader said they would not spare the CBI if any of the TMC leaders is made to face mental trauma. They tried to stop the central agencies. From the district president of Birbhum who was caught last week, properties worth Rs 150 crore have been recovered."