The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside a Calcutta High Court ruling that had quashed the Central Administrative Tribunal’s order transferring a case related to former West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay from Kolkata to Delhi, reported Bar and Bench.
Bandyopadhyay is facing disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Centre on charges of “misconduct and misbehaviour”. The proceedings against Bandyopadhyay were initiated after the West Bengal government refused to release him even as the central government’s Department of Personnel and Training asked him to report to its Delhi office in May.
Bandyopadhyay had then moved the Central Administrative Tribunal’s Kolkata bench after the central government decided to start the inquiry. The Centre then moved a transfer petition before the tribunal’s bench in Delhi seeking that the case be heard in the national Capital.
The tribunal’s bench allowed the case to be transferred, after which Bandyopadhyay moved the Calcutta High Court. In October, the High Court set aside the tribunal’s order on the transfer.
On Thursday, a Supreme Court bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar held that the Calcutta High Court did not have the jurisdiction to set aside the order of the tribunal’s Delhi bench.
The bench also allowed Bandyopadhyay to challenge the tribunal court’s verdict before the jurisdictional High Court, which is Delhi in this case.
Bandyopadhyay’s plea challenging the inquiry against him will now be heard by the Central Administrative Tribunal’s principal bench in Delhi, according to Bar and Bench.
During the hearings in the case, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had argued that the Calcutta High Court did not have territorial jurisdiction to set aside the order passed by tribunal’s Delhi bench, reported Live Law.
The solicitor general had also objected to observations made by the Calcutta High Court while quashing the tribunal’s order. The High Court had said that the “modus operandi” of the Centre to get the case transferred to Delhi “reeked of mala fides”.
Mehta had submitted before the Supreme Court that that High Courts should be “sober and circumspect” when making observations.
“Personal opinions and political views do not have any place while exercising judicial functions,” he said. “With due respect to the office of the constitutional court, this was not expected.”
Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Bandyopadhyay, told the Supreme Court that these remarks could be expunged.
“Your lordship can rectify the observations without hurting anyone”, Singhvi had said.
On the argument of territorial jurisdiction, Singhvi had contended that Bandyopadhyay lived in Kolkata, belonged to West Bengal cadre in the Indian Administrative Service and had been posted in the state throughout his service.
He said that the former civil servant had lived in Kolkata after his retirement as well as when the disciplinary proceedings were started against him.
The Department of Personnel and Training, which comes under the central government, had directed Bandyopadhyay to report to its office in Delhi hours after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee allegedly violated norms by not attending the meeting with Modi on May 28 on Cyclone Yaas.
However, West Bengal had refused to comply with the summons, terming them in “violation of applicable laws” against “public interest” and “ab initio void”.
The Centre had alleged that Banerjee had kept Modi and West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar waiting for half an hour.
Banerjee had refuted the claims, saying she handed over a detailed report on the cyclone to the prime minister and after seeking his permission thrice, she left for Digha with Bandyopadhyay to assess the damage caused by the cyclone.
On May 30, Bandyopadhyay retired from the Indian Administrative Service and joined the West Bengal government as a chief advisor to the chief minister, a political appointment that underscored his importance to Banerjee.