The Calcutta High Court on Friday set aside the transfer of former West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay’s case from the Central Administrative Tribunal bench of Kolkata to Delhi. It asked the Kolkata bench to decide the case expeditiously.
In its order, the High Court expressed reservation in the way the principal bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal favoured the central government’s attempt to transfer Bandyopadhyay’s case.
The bench of Justices Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya and Rabindranath Samanta said that the “modus operandi” of the Centre to get the case transferred to Delhi “reeked of mala fides”.
It added: “It is unfortunate that the Principal Bench of the CAT nurtured such efforts by passing the impugned transfer order, thereby paying obeisance to the diktat of the Union of India, which has been repeatedly held by the Supreme Court and various High Courts not to be a favoured litigant.”
The High Court was hearing Bandyopadhyay’s plea challenging the order passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal’s principal bench on October 22. It allowed the Centre’s petition to transfer a case filed by Bandyopadhyay before the Kolkata bench of the tribunal.
In May, Bandyopadhyay’s tenure as the chief secretary was cut short and he was asked to report to Delhi. But the West Bengal government refused to release him.
Bandyopadhyay retired from the post and took over as the chief advisor to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But he is facing disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Centre on charges of “misconduct and misbehaviour”.
The Centre’s order asking Bandyopadhyay to report to Delhi did not mention the reason for the move. But it came hours after he and the West Bengal chief minister skipped a review meeting on Cyclone Yaas with the prime minister on May 28.
Bandyopadhyay had then moved the tribunal’s Kolkata bench after the central government’s decision to start the inquiry. The Centre then moved the transfer petition.
The High Court’s order said Bandyopadhyay had on October 22 sought time to file a comprehensive written objection to the transfer petition but the tribunal went ahead and passed the order.
In his plea before the High Court, Bandyopadhyay said the transfer order violated Rule 6(2) of the Central Administrative Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1987. According to it, a person who has resigned from service is allowed to file the application with the registrar of the bench within whose jurisdiction the person is residing at the time of filing of the application.
The High Court accepted the argument. “This shocks the judicial conscience, to say the least,” read the order.
The court said the tribunal’s order violated the legal rights “as well as the petitioner’s fundamental right of equality before the law, as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, which is the grundnorm of the Indian legal fabric”.
Bandyopadhyay’s legal representative Debanjan Mandal welcomed the order. “I hope that the judicial and quasi-judicial processes in the country will render justice,” he told Scroll.in.