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‘Conduct unbecoming’ of IAS officer: What Modi govt charge sheet says on Mamata aide Alapan

Charge sheet accuses Alapan Bandyopadhyay of failing 'to maintain absolute integrity'. List of witnesses based on which charges were framed has 1 person — ADC to Bengal Governor Dhankar.

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Kolkata: The Modi government has accused Alapan Bandyopadhyay, the principal advisor to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, of indulging in conduct “unbecoming of an IAS officer”.

Bandyopadhyay is being probed for not attending a review meeting on Cyclone Yaas, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in May. He was recalled from the state on the same day but the Mamata Banerjee government had refused to release the 1987-batch officer who retired on 31 May; he was then duly appointed as the principal advisor to the chief minister. 

The Centre’s charge sheet, issued to the officer in June and exclusively accessed by ThePrint, states that Bandyopadhyay did not attend the PM’s meeting despite being aware of it.   

He failed to maintain absolute integrity and devotion to his duty and conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of a member of the service by not attending a crucial review meeting chaired by the Prime Minister on May 28, 2021, for the assessment of loss of life and property and damage to infrastructure caused by the cyclonic storm YAAS despite being fully aware that such a meeting was scheduled to be held,” reads the charge sheet sent to the officer in June.    

The list of witnesses based on which charges were framed has one person — the ADC (aides-de-camp) to Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.

The charge sheet further states that the officer’s actions constituted a “major penalty charge”, for which the central government may stop or retrieve his full or partial retirement benefits and pension. 

“The central government proposes to hold major penalty proceedings against him under Rule 8 of the All India Services (discipline and appeal) rules 1969 (hereinafter referred Discipline rules) read with rule 6 of the All India Services (death-cum-retirement benefits) rules, 1958 (hereinafter referred to as retirement benefits rules),” it states.

“The substance of the imputations of misconduct or misbehaviour in respect of which the inquiry is proposed to be held is set out in the statement of Article of Charge enclosed.” 

The case is set to escalate further as the officer has refused to join the probe, despite three summons issued by a central government-appointed authority conducting the inquiry against him.

Also read: Doctor with ‘mental health issues’ sent death threats to Bengal ex-chief secy, police say

‘Officer yet to join probe’

The one-man inquiry committee, headed by B.P. Sharma, a retired IAS officer and former DoPT secretary, was appointed in September. 

Bandyopadhyay had in between moved the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and the Calcutta High Court against the Modi government’s actions.   

He has alluded to this while refusing to entertain the latest summons, issued by the probe authority, dated 25 October. 

In his reply, through a letter dated 1 November, the officer has written that he would not appear before the inquiry panel until the “questioned” jurisdiction of the Centre is duly adjudicated by the court and the CAT. The Print has accessed a copy of the letter. 

“I have been informed by my advocates that it has been contended by learned advocates of the government of India in the recent hearings before the CAT, as well as the Calcutta HC, that my deferential communications to your esteemed authority are being shown by the GOI as my tacit acceptance of the disciplinary jurisdiction of the GOI in my case, which, as you may know from my submissions is not at all the case. This is also unfortunate,” his letter reads. 

“From the very beginning, I have been raising preliminary and foundational objections to the competence and jurisdiction of the GOI (and hence, derivatively you) in proceeding against me, but it is with a sense of polite deference to the advice and request of you and GOI that I have been communicating my points without obviously any prejudice to my rights and interests, as I have been repeatedly insisting,” the letter adds.

“Your and GOI’s insistence to proceed forward, pending the discussion and settlement of the jurisdiction question, has also been painful.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Bandyopadhyay reiterated his stance.  

“I have the highest regard for the judicial and quasi-judicial authorities in the country. I believe that justice will prevail,” he said. “I have no further comment to offer on this.”

The officer’s letters and responses to the Centre also states that during the first phase of the disciplinary action, he lost his brother and nephew to Covid, and later lost his mother in a span of two weeks, while he kept getting notices and communications from the Centre.

His response to the first show cause notice also mentions that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee “raised questions and objections about the locus of an unilaterally proposed participant invited by the PM” to the review meeting in May. The participant was Suvendu Adhikari, the BJP leader of opposition, to whom Banerjee lost in Nandigram. 

“I had been able to overcome the perceived bottleneck of an unresolved issue, and was instrumental in the centre-state meeting between the HPM (Prime Minister) and HCM (chief minister),” he wrote.

“On a day of my grave private mourning when I had other sacral duties (it was the day of my  brother’s sacred ritual and the eve of the day of my nephew’s Shraddha, both of whom prematurely lost their lives to Covid-19 pandemic), and while my mother was on death bed, I had been doing my public duties…”

A case with wider ramifications 

Even though the Modi government has had regular run-ins with the Mamata Banerjee dispensation over civil servants, the case related to Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s “misconduct”, officers in West Bengal say, could have wider implications for Centre-state jurisdiction over the civil services.  

“The final orders will have serious ramifications. It will decide whether or not a bureaucrat obeys the orders by the state government or prioritises the Centre,” said a top officer in the West Bengal Chief Minister’s Office (CMO).  

The officer added that the series of letters, show cause notices, charge memo and appearance notices indicate that the Centre is keen on “punishing” the former IAS officer, despite his representation that he followed his immediate superior — the chief minister.  

In the past five months, Bandyopadhyay has received at least eight communications from the centre, which include an order nulling his extension, show cause notices, major penalty proceedings memo, a charge sheet, two orders for initiating disciplinary proceedings against him, and summons by the inquiry authority. 

Bandyopadhyay, who was asked to submit his written statement of defence in 30 days, submitted his representation with copies of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s written orders to him for the said day. 

His responses were “disregarded”, said the CMO official, adding that the state government stands with the ex-chief secretary, who will pursue the case to the Supreme Court if the issues are not addressed.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Durga Puja pushes Bengal Covid positivity rate to 2.5, but govt says disease is less severe


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