New Delhi: Irked at the manner former West Bengal Chief Secretary, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, showed disrespect to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and dereliction of duties, the Union Ministry of Personnel has served a notice to him stating that the central government proposes to hold 'major penalty' proceedings against him.
“Shri Alapan Bandyopadhyay 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 appeals) rule, 1969 read with rule 6 of All-India Services (death cum retirement benefits) rule 1958," an official memorandum said. Bandyopadhyay had walked away from the venue along with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from the 'review meeting' in cyclone Yaas – which was to be attended by the Prime Minister.
Besides chances of being sent behind bars, under this rule, employment, and post-retirement benefits like a pension could be withheld if found guilty.
The fresh government communique states that Alapan's earlier response/answer was not satisfactory, and if he cannot explain his position 'within a month' from June 16; ‘major penalty proceedings’ against him will be initiated.
It is felt widely that the center had no option but to start disciplinary actions as there was also a violation of the Disaster Management Act.
Bandyopadhyay is a renowned Man Friday of Chief Minister Banerjee and after he opted for retirement, he was appointed as Special Advisor to the Chief Minister's office.
The gory episode happened on May 28 during the Prime Ministers' visit to the state to review the damage caused by cyclone Yaas. Chief Minister Ms. Banerjee also avoided the meeting and so did her Chief Secretary, a senior IAS officer of the 1987 batch.
The Union Home Ministry had served a show-cause notice to Bandyopadhyay under the National Disaster Management Act, a rare occasion for the use of this provision of the law.
The law entails a 'guilty' official can be even jailed for two years. Observers say this clause has been used by the Centre to send a coherent message to the IAS and IPS fraternity in West Bengal and other states about who is their 'real' boss.
In a nine-point rejoinder, the central government sources strongly rebutted Mamata Banerjee's claims that she was 'waiting for the Prime Minister on May 28 when Mr Modi had flown to West Bengal.
The Section 51 (b) of the Disaster Management Act says – anyone refusing to comply with any direction given by or on behalf of the Central Government or the State Government or the National Executive Committee or the State Executive Committee or the District Authority under this Act, shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both.
"And if such obstruction or refusal to comply with directions results in loss of lives or imminent danger thereof, shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years".
"PM (Narendra Modi) landed at Kalaikunda at 1.59 pm. Mamata Banerjee landed at Kalaikunda after the PM at 2.10 pm. It is clear that the PM was kept waiting for the Chief Minister as he landed much before her.
A TMC MP who tweeted there was no big deal in the PM being kept waiting, said government sources.
It is an established norm that the senior-most civil servant in the state, the Chief Secretary, is assigned to ensure smooth conduct of meetings with state government officers, ministers, and chief ministers when the Prime Minister convenes such important deliberations.
Perhaps Bandyopadhyay could have avoided the problem or a major faux pas had he deputed another senior officer for the meeting.
The Centre defended its moves against Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who was ordered to report to Delhi after the meeting controversy.
Bandyopadhyay ignored his constitutional duties, because of which no presentation was given to the Prime Minister, and no officer of the West Bengal government attended the PM's review meeting, sources said.
In fact, state Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar also has said earlier this month that Mamata boycotted PM's cyclone-review meet 'the previous night' itself after she came to know that Leader of the Opposition, Suvendu Adhikari will attend the meet.