Centre-West Bengal face-off

Centre, in a new memo, threatens “major penalty proceedings” against former West Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay

Published : June 22, 2021 22:23 IST

Alapan Bandyopadhyay. A file picture. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

The acrimony between the West Bengal government and the Union government over the latter’s recalling of former Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay continues.

The acrimony between the West Bengal government and the Union government over the latter’s recalling of former Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay continues, after the Centre sent him a memorandum informing him that it proposes to hold “major penalty proceedings” against him. On May 22, the day after news of the memorandum came into the public domain, the State government slammed the Centre’s action as “wrong, unfair, and vengeful”. Addressing a press conference on the subject, Saugata Roy, senior Trinamool leader and Lok Sabha MP, said that the Centre’s actions were not only weakening the federal structure of the country but also disrupting administration in West Bengal by “upsetting the officers in the State so they cannot function independently.” Alapan Bandyopadhyay who retired on May 31, is now Chief Adviser to the Chief Minister.

The Centre’s memorandum, dated June 16, stated, “Sri Alapan Bandyopadhyay, IAS (Retd) (WB 1987) is hereby informed that the Central Government proposes to hold Major Penalty Proceedings against him under Rule 8 of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969 (herein referred to as Discipline Rules), read with Rule 6 of the All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958...” Bandyopadhyay was also directed to submit, within 30 days of the receipt of the memorandum, a written statement of his defence and also to state whether he desires to be heard in person.

Condemning the new order from the Centre, Saugata Roy said, “The former Chief Secretary is not a member of our party. What steps he will take are his own decision. But we are registering our protest.” Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray pointed out that such a “departmental enquiry” cannot be undertaken against a retired IAS officer unless it is related to financial irregularities. “The rules referred to in the memorandum apply to those officers still in service not those who have retired,” said Ray.

The Centre’s order recalling Bandyopadhyay came on May 28, hours after he and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee skipped a post-cyclone review meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kalaikunda in West Bengal. Four days earlier, the Union government had given its formal assent to a request by the State government to extend Bandyopadhyay’s tenure as Chief Secretary for three more months due to the ongoing pandemic. The State government refused to release Bandyopadhyay and appealed to the Centre to withdraw the order. However, an unmoved Centre sent another letter on May 31 once again directing Bandyopadhyay to report at North Block by 10 a.m. on June 1. Bandyopadhyay opted to retire, even though he was already granted an extension of three months.

However, the matter did not end with his retirement, and on June 1 the Centre sent another letter alleging that Bandyopadhyay had acted in a manner “tantamount to refusing to comply with lawful directions of the Central Government” and his action was thus “violative of Section 51 (b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005”. Bandyopadhyay was asked to explain in writing within three days as to “why action should not be taken against him under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005”. After a lull of three weeks, the new order from the Centre is likely to spark off a fresh war of words between the Centre and the State.

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