Published: 01st June 2021
What The FAQ: Can the Modi Govt take ex-IAS Alapan Bandyopadhyay to court for not joining the centre?
If the centre wants an IAS officer on Central Deputation, the norm is to ask both the officer and the state are asked if they agree to the decision. At least one of the parties have to agree
Senior IAS officer Alapan Bandyopadhyay's term as the Chief Secretary of West Bengal was set to expire on May 31. The Mamata government asked for an extension of three months amid the two-pronged crisis of Cyclone Yaas and the pandemic that the state is dealing with. The centre agreed. This was on May 24. But just four days later they changed their mind. They now wanted Bandyopadhyay to join the Department of Personnel and Training in Delhi immediately after his term gets over on May 31. Instead of reporting to the centre, he retired as the Chief Secretary and joined Mamata Banerjee's government as the Chief Advisor.
But can the centre take action against him? Will the Modi government retaliate? We answer all your questions:
Can the centre change its decision abruptly?
If the centre wants an IAS officer on Central Deputation, the norm is to ask both the officer and the state if they agree to the decision. At least one of the parties have to agree. Here, neither the officer nor the state government has agreed to the decision.
What is more unusual is that the centre had at first agreed to the request for an extension. This was passed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), which has Home Minister Amit Shah himself as one of the chairs. So why did they reverse their decision just four days later? Many have raised the question.
Can Bandyopadhyay be penalised for not adhering to the central order?
The centre has issued a show-cause notice to Bandyopadhyay for not attending a meeting on Cyclone Yass chaired by the PM. He was also called to the DoPT but he did not adhere to the summons. While sources at the centre say that charge sheets will be filed, they technically cannot do so because Bandyopadhyay never disobeyed the order, he simply retired before that. But he can be tried for not attending the meetings at DoPT even if he is retired. As per the law, disciplinary action can be initiated against an officer for up to a period of four years after his/her retirement. Ex-civil servants reportedly told the media that Bandyopadhyay has an easy way out of that too. He can simply say that the state government did not release him.
Was the extension illegal in the first place?
Simple answer — no. “A member of the Service dealing with budget work or working as a full-time member of a Committee which is to be wound up within a short period may be given extension of service for a period not exceeding three months in public interest, with the prior approval of the Central Government,” reads the Rule 16(1) of DCRB (Death-cum-Retirement Benefit) Rules. For a Chief Secretary of a state, the extension can be for as long as six months.
Has this happened before?
While the same situation did not arise. West Bengal has been in a tussle with the centre since the Modi government 2.0 came to power. In 2019, the centre asked the state to penalise IPS officers for participating in a dharna for the state government. But the issue did not aggravate. Last year, the centre asked for three IPS officers and Mamata refused to release them.
Tamil Nadu too, under another strong female leader, Jayalalitha, had faced a similar approach from the centre. In 2001, the Vajpayee government asked for three IPS officers to be deputed to central duty but Amma refused. IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram was posted to the CBI in 2014, but the TN government did not release her. She went anyway.