Partha Chatterjee, West Bengal's former education minister and his close associate Arpita Mukherjee have been sent to the custody of the Enforcement Directorate till August 3 in connection with the School Service Commission (SSC) scam.
Chatterjee's involvement in the case came under scrutiny as several petitioners have moved the Calcutta High Court since 2016 alleging irregularities in the recruitment process in which people known to the minister were favoured.
What is Partha Chatterjee's involvement?
Chatterjee, the state minister of commerce, industry and enterprise, used to be the minister of education when the recruitment process began in 2016. The Enforcement Directorate is probing a money laundering angle against the minister. His friends and acquaintances are said to have benefitted from the scam. The Telegraph reported the Calcutta High Court as saying on Monday that there was definitive information that Biswambhar Mandal, Chatterjee's personal security guard, had helped 10 of his relatives get jobs illegally.
Several petitions, some by candidates seeking jobs through the SSC, alleged that they did not get jobs despite clearing examinations, and those who scored low marks or did not even appear for the exams had their names featured high up on the merit list.
The Indian Express reported that a panel formed to recruit 13,000 Group-D employees for schools aided or run by the government continued to make appointments much after its tenure expired in 2019. Petitions have alleged that over 500 such recruitments were made by the panel after its tenure expired. The notification to hire the Group-D employees was issued by the West Bengal government in 2016. Chatterjee was the education minister of West Bengal between 2014 and 2021.
While the CBI questioned Chatterjee in connection with the case on May 18 and 25 under the direction of the Calcutta High Court, the Enforcement Directorate carried out raids at Chatterjee's Kolkata residence on July 22. He was arrested on the same day. Raids were also carried out at other locations. This led the probing agency to Arpita Mukherjee who is reportedly a close associate of the minister.
Who is Arpita Mukherjee?
Mukherjee is an actor who has played roles in Bengali, Odiya and Tamil films. She acted in films like 'Partner' in 2008 and 'Mama Bhagne' in 2009. Her home was one of the premises raided on July 22, where the Enforcement Directorate found Rs 20 crore in cash. The Indian Express reported that the Enforcement Directorate also discovered documents to several properties that were jointly owned by Mukherjee and Chatterjee.
As the case unfolds, the opposition in West Bengal has sharply criticised the Trinamool Congress and chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, over yet another scam that involves a minister of the state. Leader of the Opposition in West Bengal Suvendu Adhikari tweeted several photos and videos of Mukherjee being present in TMC functions and programmes.
One of the photos shows Mukherjee on stage with the chief minister and Partha Chatterjee during an event held by one of Kolkata's biggest durga puja committees, Naktala Udayan Sangha, in 2019. In another photo, Adhikari alleged that Mukherjee was also present at TMC's Martyr's Day Rally on July 21, just a day before her home was raided. While Adhikari alleged Mukherjee was also present at TMC's Martyr's Day Rally on July 21, this photo is actually from a blood donation drive held on January 21, 2020. This information has been independently verified by BOOM.
A video tweeted by Adhikari shows Mamata Banerjee speaking to Mukherjee and inquiring about her work in Odiya films. "Can you speak Odiya?" the chief minister is seen asking her. Banerjee, in the video, seemed to suggest that Mukherjee was also familiar with Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim.
NDTV reported that Mukherjee was the face of the campaigns by the Naktala Udayan Sangha on 2019 and 2020, where Chatterjee is the chief patron.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Trinamool Congress never spares wrongdoers in the party and that state agencies were being used for a "malicious agenda'.
"This cannot go on. You can of course use agencies to when required, but if you think you will silence people, topple governments and break political parties, keep in mind that I work for the people. I will do what the people want, this is my job," Banerjee said.
She also said that the TMC has taken action against even ministers when required. "Trinamool Congress doesn't spare people who are thieves. I don't spare even my MLAs and MPs," Banerjee said.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include an independent fact check by BOOM which found that a photo of Arpita Mukherjee tweeted by Suvendu Adhikari is not from TMC's Martyr's Day rally on July 21, 2022, but from a blood donation drive held on January 21, 2020.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?