Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who was deputed to Delhi Friday by the central government amid a tiff with the Mamata Banerjee administration, is likely to continue in the state, ThePrint has learnt.
The central government, which issued the orders for Bandyopadhyay’s deputation after Mamata and the chief secretary failed to attend PM Modi’s Cyclone Yaas review meeting, had asked him to report to Delhi Monday.
A senior IAS officer of the West Bengal government and colleague of the chief secretary told The Print that Bandyopadhyay is going to write a detailed letter to the central government explaining his inability to report to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), as directed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
Talking to The Print, West Bengal Law Minister Maloy Ghatak said the government is trying to solve the matter through discussions. However, if required, the state will take legal recourse. “I have no message from the Chief Minister’s Office mentioning any change in terms of the chief secretary’s position,” added Ghatak.
Bandyopadhyay, who was scheduled to retire 31 May, was given a three-month extension until 30 August earlier this month. The extension was requested by the Mamata Banerjee government.
In a 10 May letter to PM Modi, she noted that he was the head of the secretariat for Covid management. The chief secretary heads over a dozen committees related to Covid management in the state and rescue-rehabilitation work for areas affected by Cyclone Yaas.
The request was approved by the Modi government.
ThePrint reached Bandyopadhyay through texts and WhatsApp messages, but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
It is not yet clear what will happen if Bandyopadhyay fails to report to Delhi Monday. ThePrint reached a DoPT official by text for a comment but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
Three West Bengal IPS officers similarly deputed to Delhi by the Modi government in December 2020 continue to serve in the state after the Mamata administration questioned the decision and refused to release them.
IAS rules state that such decisions need to be taken in consultation with the states where the officers of the cadre concerned are posted. Former Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) secretary Satyanand Misra had told ThePrint for another report that the central government’s writ should ideally reign supreme in such situations but the civil service rules don’t lay down what happens if the state refuses to comply.
According to the All India Service (AIS) Rules, the Centre cannot take any disciplinary action against IAS, IPS or IFS officers posted in their state cadres.
Ghatak, who oversees all legal matters for the state, including those pertaining to conflicts with the central government, accused the Modi administration of interpreting law “according to their convenience”.
“The Modi government mostly makes orders citing some rules, but does not follow procedures and technicalities. So, in many instances, we needed to move court. We rely on the judiciary for such things. Learned judges will decide, if needed,” he added.
Speaking at Nabanna Saturday, CM Banerjee said the state has asked the central government to withdraw the order. “I have come to know that the Modi government filed a caveat at the CAT (Central Administrative Tribunal) and in high court. We requested the Centre to withdraw the order and expect that the issue will be resolved through discussions. But, if needed, we will take legal recourse,” she added.
Ghatak questioned why the central government had effected the deputation days after clearing his extension. “The extension was approved, so that he can work during Covid and cyclone-related crises. Our CM requested the extension for him to be here and supervise the situation. He is a very efficient officer. Now, after four days of approving his extension, the Centre has attached him to Delhi,” he said. “Isn’t it illegal or violative of IAS rules? The Modi government does everything for political vendetta.”
‘Will participate in review meeting’
The aforementioned top IAS officer of the West Bengal government said Sunday they had “no information about the chief secretary going to Delhi tomorrow”. “He will be here and participate in the chief minister’s review meeting,” he added.
In a similar instance, during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar was directed to report to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The administration was under the Election Commision at the time and he was released by the ECI. Kumar, who is believed to be one of Banerjee’s close civil servants, was heading state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) then.
Kumar, however, was reinstated as head of CID after the model code of conduct was lifted.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)