New Delhi: The Central government is likely to initiate disciplinary proceedings against West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay as the 1987-batch IAS officer caught between the Centre-state standoff did not report to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) Monday, as directed by the Narendra Modi government.
According to the central government’s order issued last week, the West Bengal government was asked to relieve the officer with “immediate effect” and direct him to report to the DoPT in North Block by 31 May.
However, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday said: “The govt of W.B cannot release, and is not releasing its CS 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.”
Sources in the central government said the Centre could initiate disciplinary proceedings against Bandyopadhyay for non-compliance of Government of India (GoI) orders.
Matter likely to reach court, say experts
Experts told ThePrint that in case the Centre initiates disciplinary proceedings against the officer, the matter is likely to end up in the Central Administrative Tribunal, which the aggrieved officer can move, or another court.
“The All India Service (AIS) Rules are very clear that disciplinary proceedings against an officer posted with a state cannot be initiated by the Centre, so the only way for the Centre to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him is by using the technicality that he was asked to report to the GoI (thereby bringing him under the jurisdiction of the Centre), and he failed to comply with the order,” former DoPT secretary Satyanand Misra told ThePrint.
“However, the Chief Secretary can then simply say and provide evidence to the fact that he was not relieved by his state government, and the matter ends there,” Misra added. “If the Centre still proceeds with the disciplinary inquiry or action, the matter is likely to end up in CAT or court.”
A senior IAS officer agreed. “This case is quite unprecedented, and in that sense, it could settle a constitutional question. What happens if the Centre unilaterally summons an officer, and the officer and the state government don’t comply? The rules are silent on this right now, and if this question goes to court, it is likely to have a major bearing on the federal balance of powers over the bureaucracy in the country.”
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The nature of proceedings against CS
According to the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, an officer found to be in violation of disciplinary rules by the disciplinary authority (the government to which the officer is reporting), there can be “minor” and “major” penalties imposed on the officer.
The minor penalties include censure, withholding of promotions, recovery of any pecuniary loss caused due to negligence or breach of orders by the officer concerned, and withholding of increments.
The major penalties can include reduction to a lower scale of pay or rank or compulsory retirement.
“As is obvious, none of these penalties will really affect Bandopadhyay, who is anyone on a three-month extension given by the government,” the IAS officer quoted above said. “The government can try and affect his pension, but that is, if proceedings are initiated and then he is chargesheeted and found guilty.”
Moreover, Mishra added, Bandopadhyay is not empanelled in any post in the Government of India. “When he is not empanelled, what will he do even if he reports to the Centre? What position will they give him? And as per disciplinary proceedings, how will they reduce his scale or rank in GoI when he does not have any to begin with?”
As a former secretary of the DoPT, Mishra said, “The actions of the Centre have been very shortsighted. As per AIS and DoPT rules, they have no case here, so I don’t know who is advising them.”
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