The Centre on Monday issued a show-cause notice to Alapan Bandopadhyay, who retired as West Bengal chief secretary after rejecting the three-month extension given to him, NDTV reported. Bandopadhyay was immediately appointed the chief advisor to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The Department of Personnel and Training, which comes under the central government, had on Friday directed Bandopadhyay to report to its office at North Block in Delhi.
The order did not mention the reason for the move. But it came hours after Bandopadhyay and Banerjee skipped a review meeting on Cyclone Yaas with the prime minister. The Centre alleged that Banerjee kept Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar waiting for half an hour. Banerjee has 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 Bandopadhay to assess the damage caused by the cyclone.
The show-cause notice to Bandopadhyay referred to the meeting controversy, claiming Modi and other members of his entourage had to wait for nearly 15 minutes for officers to arrive. “In view of the absence, the chief secretary was called by an official as to whether they wanted to participate in the review meeting or not,” the notice said, according to NDTV. “Thereafter, the chief secretary arrived along with chief minister of West Bengal inside the meeting room and left thereafter immediately.”
The notice, served under the Disaster Management Act, asked Bandopadhyay to explain his absence from the cyclone meeting within three days. It also said that the meeting involved “affairs of the Centre” and the officer failed to attend it.
The notice said Bandyopadhyay’s absence was “tantamount to refusing to comply with the directions of the central government and is thus violative of Section 51(b) of the DM [Disaster Management] Act,” reported the Hindustan Times.
The section is related to the punishment for refusing to comply with the central or state government’s order with imprisonment up to one year or fine, or both. If the refusal leads to loss of life or imminent danger, the punishment may extend up to two years, according to the section.
West Bengal-Centre tussle
In a day of dramatic developments, the chief minister wrote to Modi on Monday morning, informing him that the state government was not releasing Bandopadhyay. Banerjee in her letter said she was “shocked and stunned” by the “unilateral” order recalling him as it was issued without any prior consultation with her government. “The directive is legally untenable, historically unprecedented and wholly unconstitutional,” she wrote.
However, later in the day, the Centre shot off a letter asking Bandopadhyay to comply with the May 28 order and report at its North Block office in New Delhi at 10 am on Tuesday, The Telegraph reported.
At a press conference around 5 pm in Nabanna, the state secretariat, Banerjee said that Bandopadhyay had retired before the second letter from the Centre arrived. HK Dwivedi then took over as the new state chief secretary.
The chief minister also said that West Bengal needed Bandopadhyay in order to handle the coronavirus crisis. She accused Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah of behaving like German dictator Adolf Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
This is the second time in the last few months that the Centre has recalled top bureaucrats from West Bengal to Delhi. In December, the Centre had asked the West Bengal government to relieve three Indian Police Service officers in order to join a central deputation. Those orders came after a convoy of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national president was attacked in Kolkata.