West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday, 31 May, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the state government "cannot release, and is not releasing its chief secretary at this critical hour".
In her letter, the West Bengal CM requested rescinding the order, which asked the state government to relieve Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay for further posting at the Centre.
"I must confess that I have been shocked and stunned by the unilateral order dated 28 May 2021 sent to us by the Government of India, asking us to release Alapan Bandyopadhyay IAS, Chief Secretary, West Bengal, so that he may join the Government of India on 31 May 2021, the normal date of his superannuation," Banerjee said in her letter, calling the order "legally untenable, historically unprecedented and wholly unconstitutional".
The Centre’s order in question had come on a day when a fresh row erupted between the BJP and Banerjee over PM Narendra Modi’s meeting on Cyclone Yaas.
The communication had read, "... The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the placement of the services of Alapan Bandyopadhyay, IAS (WB: 1987) with the Government of India, as per provisions of Rule 6(1) of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, with the immediate effect. Accordingly, the State Government is requested to relieve the officer with immediate effect and direct him to report to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), North Block, New Delhi, by 10 am on 31 May 2021.”
What Mamata Said
The West Bengal CM pointed out that the Centre had issued an order to extend Bandyopadhyay's service service for three months as chief secretary only a few days back.
“I presume that the said order of 24 May 2021 granting extension as Chief Secretary, issued after mutual written consultations and on the basis of the reasons deliberated upon during such consultation in accordance with due process, stands and ought to stand in any case.”Mamata Banerjee
She also questioned whether the row over the meeting between the PM and her had something to do with the Centre's change of decision regarding the chief secretary. "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."
"This so-called unilateral order is an unreasoned volte face and by your own admission, against the interests of the state and its people... The decision seems to have been taken with mala fide intention and in hot haste... I am sure that you will not inflict further suffering on the people of this state by taking away the services of an experienced officer, suddenly without any consultation and with no prior notice, whose continued presence in my state in these difficult times was accepted to be vital and necessary by your Government even four days back,” she added.
Who is Alapan Bandyopadhyay?
Bandyopadhyay, a 1987-batch IAS officer, took over as the chief secretary after Rajiv Sinha retired in September last year. He was due to retire on 31 May, but received a three-month extension from the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) on a request from the state government to continue tackling the COVID situation in the state.
DoPT is the cadre-controlling authority of IAS officers and comes under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
The Centre has cited Section 6(1) of the IAS Cadre Rules in the communication to recall Bandyopadhyay, which states that a cadre officer may be deputed to the Centre with the concurrence of the state government.