Updated: January 21, 2022 8:23:55 am
Resistance is mounting from more states to the Centre’s proposed changes in rules that give it overarching powers to decide on the posting of IAS officers even as the Government has tightened the norms further in a revised draft.
On Thursday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sent a second letter in eight days to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue, describing the move as one that goes “against the… basic structure of India’s Constitutional scheme”. The Maharashtra government, meanwhile, decided in a Cabinet meeting to “strongly oppose” the changes.
Sources said at least five states have sent letters to the Centre opposing the proposed changes. Apart from West Bengal and Odisha, they include BJP and NDA-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Meghalaya. “The present system is good,” Bihar Chief Secretary Amir Subhani told The Indian Express.
Other states are yet to respond although sources in the Maharashtra government said it will send a letter to the Centre opposing the move. The deadline for states to respond was extended from January 5 to January 25.
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In her latest letter to Modi, Mamata Banerjee wrote: “The moot point of the further revised draft amendment proposal is that an officer, whom the Central Government may choose to take out of a State to any part of the country without taking his/ her consent and without the agreement of the State Government under whom he/ she is serving, may now stand released from his/ her current assignment forthwith.”
Accusing the Centre of “taking the matter to further non-federal extremes”, she wrote: “I find the revised amendment proposal more draconian than the former, and indeed its very grain is against the foundations of our great federal polity and the basic structure of India’s Constitutional scheme.”
In Mumbai, the issue was raised in the Maharashtra Cabinet meeting by Nitin Raut, senior Congress leader and Power Minister. Speaking to The Indian Express, Raut said, “Both CM and Dy CM, along with ministers, have decided to strongly oppose the Centre’s amendments that clearly give them overriding powers to summon IAS officers on deputation without consulting state governments.”
Raut’s remarks and Mamata’s second letter referred to a revised draft sent by the Centre to states on January 12 following the response from five states.
In its latest draft, the Centre inserted two more amendments, which give it powers to call any IAS officer on Central deputation in “public interest” within a stipulated time frame. In case the state fails to relieve the officer, he/she would be deemed relieved following the due date fixed by the Centre, they said. Sources said the Centre has proposed similar amendments for IPS and Indian Forest Service officers.
In her first letter sent last week in response to the December letter, Banerjee had expressed “strong reservations” on the changes. In Thursday’s letter, Banerjee wrote that the new move would “completely render” the officers and all state governments “at the mercy of the Central Government”.
Referring to the BJP’s control of the Central Government, the letter stated: “Let us not forget that the proposed amendments are very much prone to be misused by the party in power at the Centre.”
Banerjee also indicated that the issue could snowball into a political confrontation, asking Modi “not to push us to the point of greater movements on this issue to protect the soul of this great democracy that India is and has been”.
Referring to the Centre’s letter on January 12, Maharashtra Minister Raut said that following deliberations in the Cabinet, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar “expressed serious concern”. Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray also pointed that Maharashtra should take a strong stand as done by other states, Raut said.
The proposed amendments to the IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954, seek to change the rules for Central deputation of IAS officers from different states.
The first letter sent to states on December 20 proposed two amendments to Rule 6 (1). Accordingly, a new paragraph was proposed, which says “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…” It adds that 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”.
The second insertion proposed that in case of disagreement, the state government shall give effect to the decision of the Centre “within a specified time”.
In its revised proposal, the Centre made two more amendments.
The first said that “in Public Interest, the Central Government may seek the services of such officer(s) for posting under the Central Government” and “the State Government concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government within the specified time”.
The second said that “wherever the State Government concerned does not give effect to the decision of the Central Government within the specified time, the officer(s) shall stand relieved from cadre from the date as may be specified by the Central Government”.
Following opposition from states, sources in DoPT denied that the Centre was trying to accord itself undue powers and said the states have not been sending enough officers for central deputation — and that officers would be posted only in consultation with states.
According to Central Government data, the number of IAS officers on Central Deputation Reserve (CDR), which is a quota of sorts, has gone down from 309 in 2011
to 223 as on date.
The DoPT sources also said the “public interest” clause was not arbitrary and was meant to be invoked in times of natural disasters or for national security.
Asked about the proposals, former DoPT Secretary Satyanand Mishra said: “The Centre is not saying states will be overruled. Once the number of officers to come on deputation to the Centre is fixed after mutual consultation, the Central Government should have overriding powers to get those officers. Even in ‘public interest’, officers will be called from the mutually agreed pool.”
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