West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on May 31 wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that her government cannot release Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay who has been asked to report to the Centre in what she called a "unilateral order".
Bandyopadhyay, at the centre of fresh flashpoint between Mamata Banerjee and Centre, was to report to Delhi at 10 am but the CM said that he will stay and continue to manage her state's COVID-19 crisis.
"The government of Bengal cannot release, and is not releasing, its Chief Secretary at this critical hour, on the basis of our understanding that the earlier order of extension, issued after lawful consultation in accordance with applicable laws, remains operational and valid," the CM said in the letter.
On May 28, the Centre’s Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) under Ministry of Personnel issued an order recalling Bandyopadhyay, 1987-batch IAS officer, to the Centre and requested West Bengal government to relieve Bandyopadhyay with immediate effect and directed him to report by 10 am on May 31.
The order said that the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the “placement of services” of Bandyopadhyay as per provisions of the Indian Administrative Service (cadre) Rules, 1954 with the Government of India. The ACC is headed by the Prime Minister, and Home Minister Amit Shah is the other member.
The order came hours after a row erupted over Mamata Banerjee skipping a Cyclone Yaas relief meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28 leading to a fresh flashpoint between the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee-led state government. Bandyopadhyay had skipped the meeting too.
Banerjee called Centre's order is "legally untenable, historically unprecedented and wholly unconstitutional." asking if it had anything to do with "our meeting at Kalaikunda," referring to the PM meeting venue on May 28. "I therefore humbly request you to withdraw, recall, reconsider your decision and rescind the latest so-called order in larger public interest," the letter said.
Incidentally, the West Bengal government had on May 25, issued an order, citing the Centre’s approval dated May 24 to extend Bandyopadhyay’s services as Chief Secretary for three months. Bandyopadhyay was due to retire on May 31
What do the rules say?
The Centre, as per the norm, asks each year a list of officers (IAS, IPS and IFS) who are willing to go on central deputation. A list of the names deputed under Centre is announced.
The DoPT order issued on May 28 recalling the West Bengal Chief Secretary to Centre cited Rule 6(I) of the Indian Administrative Service (cadre) Rules, 1954 that regulates “deputation of cadre officers.” But the same rule says that in case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Centre and the state government or state governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Centre.
Centre vs State - Not the First Time
This is not the first tome that Centre and the state governments has sparred over deputation of officers. In December last year, the Union Home had attached three IPS officers West Bengal cadre — Rajeev Mishra, Praveen Kumar Tripathi and Bholanath Pandey — but the Mamata Banerjee-led state government did not relieve them. The order had come after the cavalcade of BJP chief JP Nadda was attacked in Diamond Harbour area. In a similar case in 2014, IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram was deputed to the CBI in 2014, but the Tamil Nadu government refused to release her, and suspended her when she defied the state’s order. Ramasundaram, however, joined the CBI and the suspension order was nullified since she had joined the central deputation.
The Central government is not empowered to take action against the officers who are posted under the state government. According to Rule 7 in the Part III —Penalties and Disciplinary Authorities of All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969 the ‘authority’ to institute proceedings and to impose penalty is the state government, "if he is serving in connection with the affairs of that state." Both the state and the Centre have to agree before taking action against any officer.In case of Bandyopadhyay, if he continues the extension as Chief Secretary, he might lose his retirement benefits. The Centre, however, is likely to initiate disciplinary action against West Bengal chief secretary Bandyopadhyay after he failed to report to the DoPT in New Delhi as ordered, a report in Hindustan Times quoting sources said.