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Partha Chatterjee appears at CBI office before scheduled time

Legal experts said that after the division bench refused to stay the single-judge bench order, Chatterjee had no other option but to face the CBI grilling.

IANS | Kolkata |

Having exhausted all legal avenues to escape the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) grilling in connection with the West Bengal School Service Commission (WBSSC) scam, former West Bengal education minister and Trinamool Congress secretary general, Partha Chatterjee, finally appeared at the CBI’s Nizam Palace office in central Kolkata on Wednesday evening.

Soon after a division bench of the Calcutta High Court refused to stay the earlier single judge bench order asking Chatterjee to appear at the CBI office by 6 pm on Wednesday, industries minister Chatterjee started from his residence at Naktala in South Kolkata.

Finally at around 5.40 pm, that is 20 minutes before the scheduled deadline, his car arrived at the Nizam Palace office of the CBI.

Without answering the media queries there as well, Chatterjee went inside the elevator and ascended to the 14th floor of Nizam Palace, where a team of three CBI officials, led by the central agency’s joint director, Pankaj Srivastava, was waiting with a four-page list of questions.

A senior CBI official, on condition of anonymity, said that in all probability Chatterjee will have to face two rounds of questioning. The first round will be where he will be questioned alone by the CBI sleuths. In the second round, he might be questioned jointly with the members of the screening committee of WBSSC constituted by him as the state education minister.

Legal experts said that after the division bench refused to stay the single-judge bench order, Chatterjee had no other option but to face the CBI grilling, since Justice Gangoapdhyay has authorised the CBI to arrest Chatterjee in case of non-cooperation.

Meanwhile, a statement by Trinamul Congress’ state general secretary and the party spokesman Kunal Ghosh, has resulted in speculation on whether the party leadership was trying to distance itself from Chatterjee on the WBSSC recruitment irregularities scam issue. “If misdeeds by one or two persons are responsible for the sufferings of students, then the law will take its own course. But the entire party or the state government cannot be blamed for the misdeeds of one or two persons,” Ghosh said on Wednesday.

Today’s development  in the court was a rerun of sorts just five weeks ago, when the same single bench of Justice Gangoapdhyay had ordered the CBI to interrogate the former state education minister Partha Chatterjee and authorised it to arrest him should he not lend cooperation in the probe.

But that time he moved the division bench of Justice Subrata Talukdar, who had put a stay on the single bench order and all the proceedings in connection with SSC scam for four weeks and was able to evade the CBI quizzing.