[Cash for Job Scam] Calcutta HC invalidates 24000 appointments secured through WB-SSC 2016 for State Fund Misappropriation for Illicit Employment

Calcutta High Court

Calcutta High Court: While deciding a batch of writ petitions involving the 2016 West Bengal School Service Commission (‘SSC’) recruitment scam in response to the discovery of rampant illegalities in the selection process, the Division Bench of Debangsu Basak, J.* and Md. Shabbar Rashidi, J., declared all appointments made during the SSC recruitment as invalid due to irregularities, and directed individuals whose appointments were cancelled, to give back all the salaries and benefits they received because their appointments were fraudulent.


In 2016, the West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC) announced the State Level Selection Test (SLST) for recruiting teachers in state-run schools. During this process, numerous challenges arose, leading to several petitions filed in the Calcutta High Court, alleging irregularities in the recruitment process.

Petitioners raised concerns about candidates with lower grades being placed higher on the merit list, casting doubt on the fairness of the selection process. Additionally, there were allegations that individuals who did not even qualify for the merit list, received appointment letters.

The petitions challenged the 2016 selection process conducted by SSC for various teaching positions in accordance with the relevant rules. The selection process in question involved written examinations conducted via OMR sheets. For instance, in one such writ petition, the petitioners highlighted 25 instances where candidates were recommended by SSC after the expiration of the recruitment panel, particularly in Group D appointments. Similar petitions were filed regarding Group C appointments.

The SSC appointed an agency named NYSA through a closed-door tender process to scan and evaluate the OMR sheets, which violated Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India. This agency, in turn, engaged another agency, Data Scantech, for scanning the OMR sheets. Although the scanning was done at the SSC’s office premises, the SSC claimed it had not authorized Data Scantech’s engagement. Furthermore, the original OMR sheets were destroyed, with only scanned mirror images supposedly preserved in the SSC’s server. However, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) did not find any scanned mirror images in the server. The illegalities also included appointments made beyond declared vacancies, appointments to individuals not on the panel, appointments to individuals who submitted blank OMR sheets, and appointments made after the panel had expired.

The petitioners’ concerns prompted the single Judge to order an investigation by the CBI into the alleged irregularities and any associated money trail. However, an appeal was filed against this order, challenging its validity. Subsequently, the Appeal Court, recognizing serious irregularities in the recruitment process, upheld the constitutional court’s authority to delve deeper into the matter in the interest of justice and provide appropriate relief.

Analysis and Decision

The Court’s scrutiny of the SSC’s role, as an authority under Article 12 of the Constitution responsible for conducting the selection process, revealed significant irregularities, observing specifically, the appointment of the company tasked with scanning and evaluating OMR sheets lacked transparency, bypassing an open tender process.

Moreover, the Court questioned the integrity of the process, particularly concerning the alleged destruction of original OMR sheets without proper preservation of mirror images by the SSC.

Describing the selection process as “veiled in mystery,” the Court outlined numerous illegalities that complicated efforts to determine the extent of the fraud. These included the manipulation of OMR sheets, appointments exceeding declared vacancies, appointments based on blank sheets, and deviations from recruitment rules, which further undermined the process’s credibility.

The Court commented, “Right to education has been recognized as part of fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Right to education as a fundamental right would entail a right to receive education from duly qualified personnel. The selection process concerned does not inspire any confidence to hold that, appointed persons had been selected in a fair and transparent manner. The selection process was so mired that it was incapable of throwing up, the best in accordance with merit, from amongst the participants.”

Consequently, the Court invalidated the entire 2016 SSC Recruitment panel due to identified irregularities with OMR sheets, further directing the State to organize fresh examinations for affected positions and ordered individuals identified as fraudulently appointed to return the salaries received during their tenure.

Additionally, the Court expressed shock at the State Government’s decision at the cabinet level to protect fraudulently obtained employment in SSC-conducted selection processes for State-funded schools, observing that such appointments were made beyond the panel and after its expiration, exposing children to individuals who obtained employment fraudulently.

The Court remarked, “If the teacher and the nonteaching staff of such educational institution, or even a portion thereof, obtains appointments fraudulently, such teacher or nonteaching staff immediately forfeits his integrity, honesty and his ability to impart wholesome education to a child in such an educational institution. An educational institution must be protected against such elements attempting to percolate, let alone permeate into it. It is therefore, imperative and in the beneficial interest of the society that such elements are removed from an educational institution.”

Highlighting violations of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India, the Court suggested a deep connection between those perpetuating the fraud and the beneficiaries with persons involved in decision-making processes. It proposed investigating whether such violations result in criminal liability.

The Court declared all appointments made through the illegal selection process null and void, cancelled them, and ordered the uploading of OMR sheets for public scrutiny. The Court also directed individuals who obtained appointments fraudulently to return all benefits received, ordered further investigations by the CBI, and mandated a fresh selection process by the SSC, among other measures.

[Baisakhi Bhattacharyya v. State of West Bengal, 2024 SCC OnLine Cal 3862, Judgment dated 22-04-2024]

*Judgement authored by Justice Debangsu Basak

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Arindam Chattopadhyay, Ms. Lipika Chatterjee for the State

Mr. Kanak Kiran Bandopadhyay for SSC

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