Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to withdraw the Centre’s order recalling Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, and asserted her government “cannot release, and is not releasing” the top bureaucrat.
In a five-page letter, Banerjee urged the prime minister to reconsider the Centre’s decision recalling the chief secretary after giving him a three-month extension.
Banerjee said she was shocked by the Centre’s decision and termed the order as “unilateral”, and pointed out that it had been done “without any prior consultation” with the state government.
“This so-called unilateral order is an unreasoned volte face and by your own admission, against the interests of the state and its people.
“I humbly request you to withdraw, recall, reconsider your decision and rescind the latest so-called order in larger public interest. I appeal to your conscience and good sense, on the behalf of the people of West Bengal,” Banerjee said in her letter to PM Modi.
She however asserted, “The West Bengal government cannot release, and is not releasing its chief secretary at this critical hour, on the basis of our understanding that the earlier order of extension, issued after lawful consultation in accordance with applicable laws, remains operational and valid.”
The Centre, in a surprise move, had on May 28 night sought Bandyopadhyay’s services and asked him to report on Monday by 10 am to Delhi.
Bandyopadhyay, a 1987-batch IAS officer of West Bengal cadre, was scheduled to retire on Monday after completion of 60 years of age. However, he was granted a three-month extension as Chief Secretary of West Bengal by the Centre in view of his work in managing the ongoing COVID pandemic.
Referring to the Centre’s May 24 order granting extension to Bandyopadhyay for another three months after his scheduled retirement on Monday, Banerjee said, “I presume that the said order of granting extension as chief secretary, issued after mutual written consultations and on the basis of the reasons deliberated upon during such consultations in accordance with due process, stands and ought to stand in any case.
“In this regard, I seek your kind confirmation in public interest and in the larger interests of the people of the state of West Bengal in these difficult times.”
She also mentioned in her letter that the “all-India services and the laws, including the rules framed for it, have federal cooperation as the cornerstone of its legal architecture”.
Banerjee said the aim of the all-India services has been to “protect and give greater cohesion to the federal foundations” of the Constitution.
According to rule 6(1) of the AIS on deputation of all India service officers, an officer on the rolls of a certain state may be deputed to the Centre or another state or a PSU with the concurrence of the concerned state.
“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 decisionof the central government,” the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, mention.
According to experts it remains a grey area whether the central governments writ will prevail given that no consent was sought from West Bengal government
“With unilateral and non-consultative orders being issued, the federal system is gravely endangered and severely undermined. If a chief secretary of a state can be asked to be relieved like this how can the lower bureaucracy take, obey and implement orders in their letter or spirit from the chief minister, other ministers and officers.
“I presume and hope that you do not want to damage the federal amity… and destroy the morale of all the All-India Service officers working in various states,” Banerjee said.
Expressing her anguish in the entire episode of recalling Bandyopadhyay even after granting him a three-month extension, the Bengal CM questioned whether the decision has any connection with her and the chief secretary’s meeting with the PM at Kalaikunda in Paschim Medinipur district on May 28.
“I really and sincerely hope that this latest order is not related to my meeting with you at Kalaikunda. If that be the reason, it would be sad, unfortunate and would amount to sacrificing public interest at the altar of misplaced priorities,” Banerjee wrote.
The transfer order had come within hours after a political row erupted on Friday over West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee curtailing her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the post-cyclone situation in her state to just 15 minutes.
“I wanted to have a quiet word with you, a meeting between the PM and the CM as usual. You, however, revised the structure of the meeting to include a local MLA from your party who had no locus to be present in a PM-CM meeting,” she wrote in her letter.
The chief minister wrote that keeping aside legitimate reservations, she had entered the meeting to hand over our report to you. You personally took the report and then I specifically and expressly sought permission from you for us to leave for Digha.
“However, in the evening, suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, came the order seeking reversion of the Chief Secretary to Delhi, the letter said.