New Delhi:

A Calcutta High Court order cancelling the appointment of over 25,000 assistant teachers and non-teaching staff in West Bengal has been put on hold by the Supreme Court. The court said the Central Bureau of Investigation will continue to look into the matter but there will be no coercive action against candidates or officials.

The High Court had cancelled the appointments, pointing to the irregularities committed during the recruitment. Several Trinamool leaders, including former education minister Partha Chatterjee, and former officials are in jail in connection with the alleged recruitment scam.

The High Court asked the teachers to return their salaries with 12 per cent interest.  The bench — formed on the order of the Supreme Court — also asked the state’s School Service Commission to begin a fresh appointment process. But the move, which at one stroke made 26,000 teachers jobless, generated immense public anger. On social media, many complained that innocent people were being punished for the misdoings of a few.

Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, which challenged the High Court order, is hoping to reap the benefits of public mood in the ongoing general election. Today, the Chief Minister welcomed the Supreme Court order and said she was “very happy and mentally relaxed”.

During today’s hearing, the top court, though, pointed out that the irregularities spoke of a “systemic fraud”.

“Nothing remains if the faith of the public goes… What remains in the system if their appointments are also maligned? People will lose faith, how do you countenance this?” asked Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, who was leading the three-judge bench.

The court also pulled up the state authorities, for creating supernumerary posts and hiring waitlisted candidates when the whole recruitment process was in question. It also rebuked officials for the lack of proper record keeping and adequate data security protocols.