A new flashpoint has emerged in the Centre’s tussle with West Bengal, with the Home Ministry calling to New Delhi three IPS officers who were responsible for providing security to BJP national president J P Nadda — and the state refusing.
Cars in Nadda’s motorcade were stoned by alleged Trinamool Congress workers on the outskirts of Kolkata on Thursday. On Friday, the state government had declined to comply with a Home Ministry summons to the chief secretary and director general of police to present themselves in Delhi on Monday for a meeting on law and order in West Bengal.
Sources said that in a communication sent to the chief secretary and DGP on Friday, the Home Ministry directed IG (South Bengal Range) Rajiv Mishra, DIG (Presidency Range) Praveen Tripathi, and SP (North 24-Parganas) Bholanath Pandey, to report for deputation with the Government of India.
The letter, sources said, was written after West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay wrote to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla asking to be excused from the proposed meeting on law and order, since the state government was already “addressing the issue with utmost seriousness”.
In response to the Centre’s letter about the three IPS officers, West Bengal is learnt to have written back saying it would not be able to spare the officers – and that they would not be sent to Delhi.
“We already have low numbers of IPS officers in the state. So we wrote that it will not be possible to adhere to their request and release the officers,” a senior officer at the West Bengal home department said.
Senior Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee accused the Centre of being vindictive. “Last evening the MHA wrote a letter to the state government asking that the three IPS officers would have to be attached (to the Centre). The vindictiveness of MHA and the central government is clear. Law and order is a state subject. BJP never took permission for the rally they conducted that day in the name of a convoy. I have already written to MHA about this,” Banerjee said.
TMC Lok Sabha MP Prof Sougata Ray said: “The Centre may ask for names for central deputation. But it is for the state to decide whether or not to allow the IPS or IAS officers for central deputation. There is no other option. This happens when there is a vacancy.”
While under normal circumstances, IPS officers are sent on deputation to the Centre with the state’s consent, the Centre does have the power to call any IPS officer to the Centre.
Under Rule 6 of the IPS Cadre Rules, 1954, in case of disagreement between Centre and state over an officer’s deputation with the Government of India, the will of the Centre prevails.
“A cadre officer may, with the concurrence of the State Government… and the Central Government, be deputed for service under the Central Government or another State Government or under a company… Provided that in case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Central Government and the State Government… shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government.”
Federal principle at stake, court may be in play
Technically, the Centre has the right to call an officer on deputation, and in case of a disagreement, its decision prevails. However, given the federal structure, the Centre does not usually insist. This matter could well end up in court.
However, keeping in mind the federal structure of the country, the Centre rarely uses this order. Normally, the Centre writes to states every year asking for a list of officers for central deputation. Based on the willingness of officers (not binding on the state), the state governments send an “Offer List” for central deputation. The GoI then decides which officer in the offer list will be posted where. This year the Centre wrote to the states on December 7 for the offer list for 2021.
There have been instances of tussles between state governments and the Centre over the deputation of officers in the recent past.
Tamil Nadu and the Centre had a few years ago sparred over the deputation of state cadre officer Archana Ramasundaram. In 2014, the UPA government had called Ramasundaram to the Centre where she was expected to join the CBI as ADG. When the state government did not relieve her for three months, she reported to the Centre on her own. The state government suspended her for going to the Centre without being relieved.
The matter went to the Supreme Court and Ramasundaram retained her central deputation, but lost the opportunity to serve in the CBI. She was finally appointed Director General of Sashastra Seema Bal, becoming the first woman to head a paramilitary force.
Gujarat cadre IPS officer Kuldeep Sharma had similarly fought his way to the Centre in 2012.
In these cases, however, the officers were willing to serve at the Centre and had figured in the offer list, which is not the case in West Bengal now.
Sources said the matter could reach the courts. “While the Centre has the right to call officers to GoI even without the state’s consent, the state can argue in court that the Centre’s decision is mala fide or informed by bias against the state,” a senior IPS officer said.