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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Centre vs States: How IAS officers are put on central deputation

Alapan Bandyopadhyay, an IAS officer of the 1987 batch, has been the subject of a tussle between the Centre and the West Bengal government over the last few days.

Written by Shyamlal Yadav | New Delhi |
Updated: June 2, 2021 2:29:12 pm
Alapan Bandyopadhyay (Express Photo/File)

On Monday, West Bengal Chief Minister announced that outgoing Chief Secretary Bandyopadhyay would be appointed Chief Advisor to the Chief Minister. Bandyopadhyay, an IAS officer of the 1987 batch, has been the subject of a tussle between the Centre and the state government over the last few days. He was due to begin an extension of three months after retiring as Chief Secretary on Monday, but the Centre instead asked him to report on Monday and join the Government of India. He did not do so.

The tussle

On May 25, the West Bengal government issued an order, citing the Centre’s approval dated May 24, “in the interest of public service, to extend” Bandyopadhyay’s services for three months. But, on May 28, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) wrote to the Chief Secretary that “the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet has approved the placement of the services” of Bandyopadhyay with the Government of India with “immediate effect” and requested the state to relieve the officer with immediate effect and direct him to report by 10 am on May 31.

This came after Mamata Banerjee and Bandyopadhyay last week skipped a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the state. As it turned out, the Chief Minister did not relieve Bandyopadhyay, who did not report to New Delhi either.

How officers get an extension

Rule 16(1) of DCRB (Death-cum-Retirement Benefit) Rules says that “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”. For an officer posted as Chief Secretary of a state, this extension can be for six months.

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Central deputation

In normal practice, the Centre asks every year for an “offer list” of officers of the All India Services (IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service) willing to go on central deputation, after which it selects officers from that list. Rule 6(1) of the IAS Cadre Rules says an officer may, “with the concurrence of the State Governments concerned and the Central Government, be deputed for service under the Central Government or another State Government…” It says “in case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Central Government and the State Government or State Governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government.”

In a PIL in the Supreme Court in January this year, lawyer Abu Sohel pleaded that Rule 6(1) be struck down. He contended that because of the Rule, states have to bear the brunt of arbitrary actions taken by the Centre, while the Rule makes it difficult for the Centre to enforce its will on a state that refuses to back down. Ruling on March 1, a Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice S Ravindra Bhat did not find any merit in the petition.

Earlier showdowns

WEST BENGAL, 2019: In February 2019, the Home Ministry had written to then West Bengal Chief Secretary Malay Kumar De calling for action against five IPS officers, including DGP Virendra, for allegedly taking part in a dharna organised by the Trinamool Congress against CBI raids. The Home Ministry had asked the state to withdraw medals conferred on the officers. The state government said no officer had taken part in the dharna. To find out what action, if any, was taken against the five officers, The Indian Express filed an RTI with the Home Ministry, which replied on January 8, 2021: “The queries are vague/hypothetical in nature which is not covered” under the RTI Act. On another RTI, the MHA replied on December 30, 2020: “No awards/medals have been withdrawn” against any IPS officers since January 1, 2019.

WEST BENGAL, 2020: Last December, the Centre asked that three IPS officers who were in charge of security when BJP president J P Nadda’s motorcade was attacked outside Kolkata on December 10, allegedly by supporters of the Trinamool Congress, be sent on deputation with the Centre. The state government refused, citing a shortage of IPS officers. The officers concerned were not relieved from the state and the Centre did not insist either. The officers — Rajeev Mishra (then Additional Director General, South Bengal), Praveen Tripathi (then Deputy Inspector General, Presidency Range) and Bholanath Pandey (then SP, Diamond Harbour) — continue to serve in the state government, in new positions.

TAMIL NADU, 2001: A month after J Jayalalithaa took oath as Chief Minister in 2001, Tamil Nadu police’s CB-CID raided former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s home on the night of June 29 and arrested him along with his DMK colleagues Murasoli Maran and T R Baalu, then ministers in the NDA government of A B Vajpayee. The following month, the Centre asked the state government to send three IPS officers on central deputation. But Jayalalithaa refused, and wrote to other Chief Ministers for their support to protect the rights of the states. The incident resulted in the removal of Governor M Fathima Beevi, as the Centre was not happy with her report.

TAMIL NADU, 2014: IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram was deputed to the CBI in 2014, but the Tamil Nadu government refused to release her, and suspended her when she defied the state’s order. However, the suspension did not apply because she had by that time already joined CBI.

What next

The Centre cannot take action against civil service officials who are posted under the state government, unless the latter agrees. Rule 7 of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, states that the “authority to institute proceedings and to impose penalty” will be the state government if the officer is “serving in connection with the affairs of a state…” For any action to be taken against an officer of the All India Services, the state and the Centre both need to agree.

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