The Ministry of Personnel has issued a show cause notice to now retired West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay for not reporting to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on May 31. Alapan Bandyopadhyay had been directed to join the Union Government in an order issued on May 28. Bandyopadhyay, who was supposed to retire on May 31 had been given an extension after the West Bengal government had submitted a proposal to the centre. In West Bengal, the Chief Secretary heads over a dozen committees related to Covid management and rescue-rehabilitation work for areas affected by Cyclone Yaas and so the state needed Bandyopadhyay’s services.
The centre had accepted the proposal and Bandyopadhyay’s tenure had been extended by three months. However, following the latest order by the centre to report in New Delhi, Bandyopadhyay retired on May 31 and was subsequently appointed as the Chief Advisor to the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
It has been reported that the show cause notice sent to Bandyopadhyay questions his failure to report at the DoPT office on Monday and asks why disciplinary proceedings should not be initiated against him for having defied the centre’s directions in alleged violation of service rules. Now, as per reports, despite Bandyopadhyay’s retirement, a charge sheet may be issued against him followed by disciplinary action.
A plausible response from Bandyopadhyay to the notice could be to explain that he could not report to New Delhi as expected because the West Bengal government didn’t give him the necessary clearance to go to New Delhi. West Bengal government was Bandyopadhyay’s cadre controlling agency and so its approval was compulsory for him to travel to New Delhi to report to the DoPT.
As far as disciplinary action is concerned, such proceedings can be initiated against an officer for up to four years after their retirement. Since Bandyopadhyay has now retired, a penalty if levied after a proper hearing, may affect his pension and post-retirement benefits. The aggrieved officer can always approach the Central Administrative Tribunal or the High Court.
However, there’s some debate over who could prevail in this tug of war over a bureaucrat between the centre and the state. As per All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, the competent authority for issuing a charge sheet would be the state government in case the bureaucrat isn’t relieved of his services by the state, which is the case for Bandyopadhyay. But then Rule 6(1) of the IAS Cadre Rules cites that the centre’s word on the deputation of a bureaucrat prevails when there’s a disagreement between the centre and the state.
Bandyopadhay has drawn the ire of the centre following allegations that he and CM Mamata Banerjee had walked out of the cyclone review meeting with the Prime Minister. However, CM Banerjee countered that she had in fact met the PM and had left with his due permission. About Bandyopadhyay allegedly walking out, Mamata Banerjee said, “Politicians stage walk-outs. Can a bureaucrat ever walk out?”