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Explained: IAS officers and central posting

The Centre has proposed to amend the rules for central deputation of IAS officers. How is deputation done at present, why has it caused Centre-state tussles in the past, and what are the proposed changes?

Written by Shyamlal Yadav | New Delhi |
Updated: January 22, 2022 8:18:08 pm
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with then chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, who was the centre of a Centre-state tussle last year. (Express Archive)

The Centre has proposed amendments to the IAS (Cadre) Rules in order to exercise greater control in central deputation of IAS officials, which has often been at the centre of tussles between the Centre and the states.

What is current rule on deputation?

Central deputation in the Indian Administrative Service is covered under Rule-6 (1) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules-1954, inserted in May 1969. It states: “A cadre 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 or under a company, association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, which is wholly or substantially owned or controlled by the Central Government or by another State Government. Provided that 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.”

As on January 1, 2021, out of around 5,200 IAS officers in the country, 458 were on central deputation.

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What are the proposed amendments?

On December 20, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) wrote to various state governments that “… various state/joint cadres are not sponsoring adequate number of officers for central deputation, as part of the Central Deputation Reserve. As a result of this, the number of officers available for central deputation is not sufficient to meet the requirement at Centre.”

The letter proposed to insert an additional condition in Rule 6(1): “Provided that each State Government shall make available for deputation to the Central Government, such number of eligible officers of various levels to the extent of the Central Deputation Reserve prescribed under Regulations referred to in Rule 4(1), adjusted proportionately by the number of officers available with the State Government concerned vis-à-vis the total authorized strength of the State cadre at a given point of time. The actual number of officers to be deputed to the Central Government shall be decided by the Central Government in consultation with State Government concerned.”

To the existing condition that “in case of any disagreement… the State Government or State Governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government”, the proposed amendment adds the words “within a specified time”.

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The Centre has sought comments within January 25, and sent reminders to state governments. It has written that “in specific situations, where services of cadre officers are required by the Central Government in public interest, the Central Government may seek the services of such officers for posting under the Central Government.” A few states have responded, including West Bengal, which has raised objections.

What are West Bengal’s objections?

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is the Minister for DoPT, that the proposals are “against the spirit of cooperative federalism” and “will affect administration of the state”. “By insisting on officers to be made available for deputation through the proposed amendment, not only will the administration of States be affected but also it would become impossible to assess and plan the administration of a State – by engaging such officers who form part of the Central Deputation Reserve, fraught with the uncertainty of their sudden deputation by the Centre,” she has written.

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How are officers sent on central deputation today, and how could the amendments affect it?

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, from which it selects officers.

While Rule 6(1) says that in case of disagreement, the state shall give effect to the decision of the Centre, this has not been possible in several cases of conflict. Even the proposed amendment leaves the state with an escape route by stating that the number of officers to be sent on deputation shall be decided by the central government “in consultation with the State Government concerned”. And while the Centre mandates the state governments to provide a list of officers, the officer too must be willing, with Rule 6(2) stating: “no cadre officer shall be deputed to any organisation or body of the type referred to in item (ii),
except with his consent”. Item (ii) covers certain kinds of organisations.

In January 2021, a West Bengal-based lawyer, Abu Sohel, filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking 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. The court, ruling on March 1, did not find any merit in the petition.

In cases of tussle, how often has the Centre has its way?

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Usually, the states have had their way. Among the latest examples was a tussle involving Alapan Bandyopadhyay, an IAS officer of the 1987 batch, now retired and serving as Chief Adviser to West Bengal CM Banerjee. Last year, when he was due to begin an extension of three months after retiring as Chief Secretary, the Centre asked him to report on the day of his retirement. Bandyopadhyay did not do so, and the Chief Minister did not relieve him either.

In December 2020, 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 to the Centre. The state refused, citing a shortage of IPS officers, and the Centre did not insist either.

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Prominent examples in other states include a tussle between the Centre and the J Jayalalithaa government in 2001. On June 29, 2001, a month after Jayalalithaa took oath, the state police’s CB-CID raided former chief minister M Karunanidhi’s home 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. Jayalalithaa refused, and wrote to other Chief Ministers for their support to protect the rights of the states.

In another tussle involving Tamil Nadu, IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram was deputed to the CBI in 2014, but the state government refused to release her, and suspended her when she defied the state’s order and joined the CBI. She is today one of the members of the Lokpal.

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First published on: 21-01-2022 at 03:45:43 am
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