Kolkata: West Bengal’s retired chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay has moved the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him, ThePrint has learnt.
Sources in the state government said Bandyopadhyay filed the application before the CAT in early October, and included an argument challenging the jurisdiction of the Government of India in initiating the probe for ‘misconduct’ against him.
A top official of the West Bengal government, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint: “In a federal structure, the Centre may advise the state government concerned to conduct a disciplinary process against an IAS officer, but cannot probe the officer directly. There are several judgments of the Supreme Court in this regard. We have cited those. This is a quasi-judicial process and we will wait to see the final order from the CAT.”
Bandyopadhyay, who is now the principal adviser to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, was caught in a tussle between the Modi government and the state administration in May.
First, he didn’t turn up to receive PM Modi at the Kalaikunda airbase in West Midnapore (CM Banerjee didn’t either).
Then, Bandyopadhyay is alleged to have left a review meeting chaired by the PM on the damage caused by Cyclone Yaas — sources said Mamata Banerjee left after a brief discussion with Modi, and the chief secretary followed suit.
Officials in the state government said there was no disciplinary lapse in the episode. According to a second senior official at the state secretariat Nabanna, the CM and the chief secretary had informed the PMO about another administrative meeting that coincided with the PM’s arrival. A state minister was present to receive the PM, in compliance with protocol, the official added. Mamata Banerjee had said at a press conference later that she had sought the PM’s permission before leaving the meeting.
However, hours after a row erupted over the matter, Bandyopadhyay was directed to report to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) in the national capital. However, he chose not to comply with the central directive and retired on 31 May, following which the Centre initiated disciplinary action against him. Immediately after his retirement, CM Banerjee appointed him as principal adviser to her government.
Last week, the Modi government appointed an inquiry officer to probe into Bandyopadhyay’s “misconduct”.
Protocol for disciplining IAS officers
The charges brought forth by the central government primarily deal with Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s decision to leave the meeting with the CM, and not stay back until the PM left. The charges do not include his absence at the airbase to receive the PM, said the first senior official mentioned above.
The petition by Bandyopadhyay to the CAT mentions the protocol to be complied with in such cases, this official said.
“Alapan Bandyopadhyay has followed the explicit and specific directions of his immediate superior authority — the chief minister of the state. The chief minister entered the meeting, greeted the PM, handed over the reports and a Powerpoint presentation, and took the PM’s permission to leave the meeting, as she was scheduled to attend another meeting. She also requested the PM to allow the chief secretary to leave the meeting. After the PM’s approval, the CM and the CS left the meeting. These are all documented facts, and they were presented before the CAT,” said the official.
The case before the CAT is now related to duties and the protocol of an IAS officer serving the state government.
“How should an IAS officer work or conduct himself? Should he not obey his immediate superior authority? These need to be clarified. Alapan Bandyopadhyay will cooperate with the investigation by the inquiry officer appointed by the Centre last week,” the official added.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)
(This report has been updated to reflect that Bandyopadhyay filed the application in early October, not June.)
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