Proposed changes in IAS posting rules: ‘Draconian’, says Mamata Banerjee; NDA states voice opposition

Mamata Banerjee accused the Centre of taking the matter to non-federal extremes terming it more draconian.

It may be recalled that the Centre and the West Bengal government led by CM Banerjee were involved in a power tussle in May last year over the posting of former state Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay.

The proposed changes in the IAS posting rules giving overarching powers to the Centre is facing stiff opposition from opposition-ruled states but also from those governed by the NDA. While the government has tightened the norms in a revised draft, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written a second letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing the move.

According to a report in The Indian Express, states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Meghalaya have also sent a letter to the Centre against the move while Maharashtra has also joined the protesting chorus. In her letter to PM Modi, Banerjee termed the move as one against the basic structure of India’s constitutional scheme. She urged PM Modi to not push for the changes.

She accused the Centre of taking the matter to non-federal extremes terming it more draconian. “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,” she wrote.

Bihar Chief Secretary Amir Subhani told the IE that the current system is good, hinting that no changes are required. While the Centre has extended the deadline for states to respond to the draft rule till January 25, the Maharashtra cabinet has decided to send a letter to the Centre opposing the move.

Maharashtra Power Minister Nitin Raut said that the state government has decided to oppose the changes proposed by the Centre that ‘clearly give them overriding powers to summon IAS officers on deputation without consulting state governments’.

In the revised draft, the Centre has made two more amendments which give it powers to call any IAS officer on Central deputation in the public interest within a stipulated time frame. If the state fails to relieve the officer, he/she would be deemed relieved following the due date as fixed by the Centre.

Speaking about the proposals, former DoPT Secretary Satyanand Mishra said that the Centre is not trying to overrule the states. “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,” he said.

It may be recalled that the Centre and the West Bengal government led by CM Banerjee were involved in a power tussle in May last year over the posting of former state Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay. While Centre had asked Bandyopadhyay to report to Delhi, Banerjee had refused to release him. While Bandyopadhyay did not report to the Centre despite repeated letters, he chose to retire and Banerjee appointed him as the chief advisor to the CM. The Centre had later also issued a show-cause notice to him while warning him of disciplinary action.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had set aside a Calcutta High Court order which had stopped the transfer of the case concerning disciplinary action against Bandyopadhyay from West Bengal to the national capital. Bandyopadhyay had then approached the Delhi High Court against the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) Principal Bench order which transferred his application from the CAT Kolkata bench to the Delhi branch. The HC will hear the matter on January 24.

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