Kolkata: A special court of Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Kolkata on Wednesday extended the judicial custody of former West Bengal education minister and ex-Trinamool Congress general secretary, Partha Chatterjee in connection with the multi- crore teachers’ recruitment scam in the state till December 14.
A similar extension of custody was also ordered for Partha Chatterjee’s close aide, Arpita Mukherjee in the matter.
Although the ED counsels demanded an extension of custody by a month, the court accepted the arguments by Chatterjee’s counsels that in such matters, judicial custody cannot be extended for more than 14 days.
In fact, neither the counsel for Partha Chatterjee nor that for Arpita Mukherjee moved bail pleas for their clients. Instead, they spent most of the time of their argument behind questioning the slow pace of investigation by the ED sleuths.
However, in its counter-argument while justifying the prolonged process of investigation, the ED counsels referred to an assumed situation where a burglar has moved elsewhere after committing the burglary.
“A burglary is a scheduled offence. But if that burglar flees elsewhere after committing the crime, then the investigation cannot be completed within 24 hours. Similarly, in this case, after the scam proceeds were collected, they were diverted through various channels including some corporate entities. Hence, the process of identifying the entire money trail is becoming time-consuming,” the ED counsel argued.
They also pointed that Partha Chatterjee in the capacity of education minister had also ignored notes of caution from whistle-blowers about the recruitment malpractices undertaken by the former president of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education (WBBPE), Manik Bhattacharya. Instead, Chatterjee informed Bhattacharya about the complaints received against the latter, the ED counsel argued.
They also informed the court that ED has seized unauthorised and unaccounted property worth Rs 103 crore owned by Partha Chatterjee and Arpita Mukherjee.
Finally, after hearing both sides, the court extended the judicial custody of Partha Chatterjee and Arpita Mukherjee till December 14.