School jobs for cash scam: Calcutta High Court orders removal of ED officer from SIT

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In a significant development, the Calcutta High Court on Friday ordered the removal of Mithilesh Kumar Mishra, the Assistant Director, Enforcement Directorate (ED), from the Special Investigating Team (SIT) investigating the ‘school jobs for cash’ scam case [Soumen Nandy vs State of West Bengal].

Single-judge Justice Amrita Sinha ordered the Director of ED to immediately remove Mishra from the SIT, opining that he appeared to not have the competence to handle such a case of huge magnitude.

The ED Director was asked to entrust the work of Mishra to some other ‘responsible’ officer.

Notably, Mishra had personally appeared before the bench last week and had given ‘unsatisfactory’ answers to various queries of the bench, especially, with regard to the assets of Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Abhishek Banerjee who is also an accused in the case.

“The Officer, Mr Mishra appears to be looking into the primary teachers recruitment scam. On the last occasion, this court had an opportunity to interact with the said officer in open court. He was unable to provide satisfactory answers to the questions, put forward by this Court. On such an interaction, this court is convinced that he will not be competent enough to handle the instance scam case which is of huge magnitude,” Justice Sinha said.

The judge, therefore, ordered the ED Director to remove him immediately from the SIT, adding that the said officer should not be entrusted to investigate any case arising in West Bengal.

After the bench dictated its order, Deputy Solicitor General Dhiraj Trivedi, submitted that the ED officer is responsible enough but would have lacked confidence to speak in front of the judge.

At this, Justice Sinha responded,

“If an ED officer doesn’t have a confidence, how will he handle the investigation in a case of such a tune. He lacked confidence. The court has lost confidence in him. He will have to go, let someone else come in his place.”

Meanwhile, Senior Advocate Bikashranjan Bhattacharya told the judge that the ED had issued a notice to Abhishek Banerjee to appear before it on October 3 although the TMC leader has publicly indicated that who would not comply with the notice.

“On Twitter, he has said he would not appear before the ED as there is some political function of his party. He has said he will not appear and no one can stop him. This is what has come on Twitter, I do not know the veracity of the same,” the senior lawyer told the bench.

Hearing this, the Justice Sinha ordered the ED Director to ensure the probe is not hampered by any means.

“It is brought to the notice of this Court that notice has been issued to Mr Banerjee to appear before it on October 3. The Investigating Officers shall take necessary steps to follow up with the probe so that the same is completed at the earliest. The Director of ED is directed to take immediate steps in the matter so that the enquiry and investigation, which is scheduled on October 3 is not hampered in any manner whatsoever,” the bench ordered.

The Court then adjourned the hearing till October 10 for the ED to submit a comprehensive report spelling out the concrete progress in the case.

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