A special court in Kolkata on Monday ordered state Commerce minister Partha Chatterjee to be sent to 10-day cutody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the teachers’ recruitment scam. Arpita Mukherjee, the minister’s aide who allegedly stashed Rs 22 crore in cash at her residence, and was arrested following questioning, was also sent to ED custody till August 3. Amid growing criticism against the ruling Trinamool Congress over the ED’s findings, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee finally broke her silence on the issue, saying that she was “personally hurt,” while maintaining that he should be punished if found guilty of any wrongdoing.
“I don’t support corruption or any wrongdoing. If anyone is found guilty, he or she must be punished, but I condemn malicious campaign against me,” Banerjee told news agency PTI, slamming the BJP and warning the Opposition party to desist from attempts to “break her party using agencies.”
Chatterjee, who held the portfolio of Education when the scam allegedly took place, was produced before a special court virtually at 4 pm on Monday from AIIMS Bhubaneshwar hospital under the direction of the Kolkata High Court. The court, however, turned down the probe agency’s prayer to grant custody for 14 days of the TMC leader and 13 days of his aide Arpita Mukherjee. Dismissing the minister’s bail petition, it ordered both Chatterjee and Mukherjee to be remanded to ED custody till August 3. The ED court further ordered the agency to provide a medical report of the two accused every 48 hours, while directing ED not to conduct probe on Mukherjee between 9 pm and 6 am.
The ED had sought longer custody as it argued before the court that they couldn’t question Chatterjee during the two-day remand as he was feigning illness and was admitted to the state-run SSKM hospital. The Kolkata HC, on Sunday, while coming down heavily on the SSKM hospital for sheltering politicians of the ruling party, ordered Chatterjee to be admitted to AIIMS Bhubaneshwar. After Chatterjee’s medical examination, the doctors at AIIMS ruled out any hospitalisation, while stating that his condition remains stable despite chronic health problems.
The ED had also told the special court that they had uncovered “various incriminating documents relating to immovable properties in the name of Ms. Arpita Mukherjee and companies.” The ED also told the court that Rs 21.90 crore found at Mukherjee’s apartment was the “proceedings of crime generated in relation to the criminal activities for giving illegal appointments to Assistant teachers for Class IX to Class XII as well as Primary teachers in lieu of money.” The ED had also submitted that Chatterjee and Mukherjee had committed offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED had complained that the TMC minister was “uncooperative during the course of search at this premises that he even struck off the typed portions mentioning in the details of incriminating documents seized from his premises.”