A special court in Kolkata on Wednesday extended the Enforcement Directorate custody of former West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee and his aide, Arpita Mukherjee, till August 5 in connection to the alleged teacher recruitment scam, PTI reported.

The former minister and his aide are facing charges under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Chatterjee and Mukherjee were arrested on July 23. In two separate raids at Mukherjee’s properties in July, the agency recovered cash worth Rs 47 crores and 5 kilograms of gold.

On Wednesday, the Enforcement Directorate sought four days’ custody for Chatterjee and three days for Mukherjee, PTI reported.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, representing the Enforcement Directorate, informed the court that the agency needed to question the former minister and his aide about several companies and properties owned by them together.

According to the Enforcement Directorate, Chatterjee and Mukherjee had signed a conveyance deed in January 2012, registered in Birbhum district’s Bolpur, Raju said. The agency also alleged that both the accused persons had an equal share in a partnership deed entered in the name of APA Utility Services in November 2012.

Raju also told the court that Chatterjee has not been cooperating in the investigation. Mukherjee, on the other hand, is forthcoming, he added.

Advocate KP Das, appearing for Chatterjee, argued whether cooperating meant admitting to the accusations levelled against his client by the Enforcement Directorate, PTI reported.

Das prayed for Chatterjee’s bail on any conditions imposed by the judge. He also said that the investigation can continue without Chatterjee’s custody as bank accounts of persons can be traced using PAN card details.

Das requested that his client’s custody cannot be extended by two days as a maximum of 15 days’ police remand is permissible under law, reported PTI.

Raju argued that two days of custody were wasted as the former minister was admitted to the hospital and could not be questioned during the period.

“From the materials available on case diary, it appears that accused persons are involved in the commission of the offence as alleged,” Special Judge Jibon Kumar Sadhu said after hearing the arguments, PTI reported.

The case

Chatterjee, a senior Trinamool Congress leader, was the state education minister in 2018 when allegedly jobs were given to candidates in return for money instead of deserving candidates who had qualified in the recruitment process.

The Enforcement Directorate inquiry is based on a first information report filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. On June 15, the Calcutta High Court asked the investigation agency to look into alleged irregularities in the recruitment of Group C and Group D staff, assistant teachers of Classes 9 to 12, and primary teachers.

Initially, the Trinamool Congress alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party was behind the arrest of Chatterjee.

But later on July 28, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee removed Chatterjee as a minister and from all party posts.

Chatterjee was the party’s secretary general for nearly two decades and was appointed as the national vice president earlier this year.

Chatterjee is the first minister to be sacked from the Cabinet after the Trinamool Congress returned to power in the state in 2021.