THE LONE SENTINEL OF JUSTICE
For the victims of the West Bengal teachers’ recruitment scam, Justice Abhijit Ganguly has emerged as the final hope
Justice Abhijit Ganguly, who played a crucial role in unearthing the West Bengal teacher recruitment scam, began his career as a West Bengal Civil Service officer and worked in the land department. Later, he quit his job and began practising as a lawyer. Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, Rajya Sabha MP and top lawyer, remembers him as a sincere junior. “While working as a lawyer, he learnt how entrenched corruption is and now he is digging deep into its roots,” he says. Lawyer Firdous Shamim remembers Ganguly for his wit and cultural interests. “He was into dramatics in his youth,” says Shamim.
Ganguly was elevated as a judge in 2018 and gained notice in 2021 when the case related to irregularities in the recruitment of teachers came before him. From the beginning, Justice Ganguly was unsparing on the authorities involved in the alleged recruitment scam and came down heavily on two heavyweight ministers— former education minister Partha Chatterjee and current minister of state for the department of school education, Paresh Chandra Adhikary, whose daughter was illegally appointed as a teacher. He was vocal against the judgment of the division bench which stayed some of his orders, including the directive for a CBI probe.
When the division bench set aside his orders four times, he wrote a strong letter to the Chief Justice of India on April 13, 2022. “I don’t understand who would benefit by tying the hands of a singlejudge bench,” read the letter. Meanwhile, TMCaffiliated lawyers gave a call for boycotting his bench, and unleashed veiled threats. Ganguly was unmoved. “You can hold a gun to my head and kill me if you want, but you cannot stop me from delivering justice,” he said. When petitioners suspected foul play and tampering of evidence in the West Bengal School Service Commission office following the resignation of the chairman, Ganguly held a special hearing at 10.45 pm on May 18 and ordered CRPF personnel to be posted and CCTV footage to be preserved till the next chairman took charge.
There is also a softer side to the 60yearold judge, who is set to retire in August 2024. After seeing a news clip on Soma Das, a cancer patient waiting to be recruited as a teacher, he sent his officers to bring her to his chamber. He ensured her that the government would recruit her, as she had got a high rank in the selection test. “Like a guardian, a father, he stood by us,” says Soma. In another case, he fasttracked the petition of 76yearold Shyamali Ghosh, who had not received her pension for the past 25 years.
Armed with an MBA degree, Partha Chatterjee quit his HR job in Andrew Yule to join politics in 1998. He is an old loyalist of Mamata Banerjee who has stuck by her from the time when TMC’s MLAs accounted for less than onefifth of the 294member Bengal assembly. He contested his first assembly polls in 2001 from Behala Paschim and has won it five times in a row. A strong organisation man, he emerged as Mamata’s goto per
son in running the party. He has held important portfolios—leader of the Opposition in the assembly between 2006 and 2011, deputy leader of the house in 2011, secretary general of TMC, head of the party’s disciplinary commitee and several cabinet posts. He was education minister from 2014 to 2021. One thing Mamata has disapproved about Chatterjee is his ample girth. The TMC chief has bodyshamed him in public on multiple occasions.
The West Bengal School Service Commission conducts the state-level selection test in 2016 to recruit teachers for Classes IX to XII. Results are out in 2017 but without a merit list. Candidates could only check scores online. So they do not know their ranks, and are uncertain if they made the cut. As some get interview calls, others grow desperate.
Word spreads that the jobs are being ‘sold’. Agents allegedly identify candidates willing to pay. There are believed to be various price tags—Rs 8-10 lakh for teachers in Class IX-X, Rs 10-15 lakh for Class XI-XII and Rs 20 lakh for candidates from other states, those who did not have BEd degrees or who did not even appear for the test.
Based on payments, agents allegedly prepared lists of candidates to be recommended. Unsuccessful candidates got answer scripts for revaluation through RTIs. OMR sheets got corrected with higher marks. Appointment letters are given to these candidates, bypassing genuine ones.