The West Bengal government will have the “last word” on releasing three of its IPS officers for central deputation, the state’s ruling TMC declared on Saturday, dubbing as “intimidatory” the Union Home Ministry’s order for shifting them out following the mob attack on BJP chief J P Nadda’s convoy.
A top state government official said late Saturday night that a communication has been sent to the Union Home Ministry conveying the “unwillingness to release” the officers.
“We have written to the central government about our unwillingness to release these three IPS officers who are holding important charges and we require them,” the official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
Days after Nadda’s cavalcade came under attack by alleged Trinamool Congress supporters when he was on way to address a public meeting at Diamond Harbour near Kolkata, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) summoned the IPS officers to serve under it for alleged dereliction of duty.
The three officers — Bholanath Pandey (SP, Diamond Harbour), Praveen Tripathi (DIG, Presidency Range) and Rajeev Mishra (ADG, South Bengal) — were responsible for the security of the BJP chief during his December 9-10 visit to the politically volatile state that will likely have assembly elections in April-May next year.
The MHA’s move came a day after the Mamata Banerjee government defiantly rejected summonses to state chief secretary and police chief to appear before Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla to tender explanation for the attack on Nadda’s motorcade that left several BJP leaders and workers injured and their vehicles damaged.
“The Centre is trying to intimidate the state administration and police force by demanding that top ranking police officers be sent on central deputation. These IPS officers were close to the convoy managing Nadda’s security. What was their fault?
“The state will have the last word on the issue…the state will not bow down before the Centre’s diktat,” TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee told journalists.
Banerjee wrote to Bhalla on Saturday alleging the chief secretary and the DGP were summoned at the behest of Union Home Minister Amit Shah with “political motive”.
TMC veteran leader and Lok Sabha member Sougata Roy concurred with Banerjee on the state’s jurisdiction over transfer and posting of IAS and IPS officers, insisting it was upto the state concerned to release officers of the All India Services for central deputation while keeping in mind their availability.
“IAS and IPS officers are governed by Article 312 of the Constitution. But once selected as IAS or IPS they are assigned a state cadre. The Centre may ask for names of officers to be sent on deputation. But it’s upto the state to release them. The state has the option. That’s the procedure,” he said.
The Home Ministry’s move for shifting the three IPS officers may further embitter the relations between the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee government.
Sources in the Union Home Ministry defended the move and said the decision was taken in accordance with the rules governing officers of the All India Services.
Admitting that the MHA had taken the decision “unilaterally and bypassing” the West Bengal government, they said in usual circumstances the consent of the state government concerned is obtained.
These three officers are perceived to be close to the ruling dispensation in West Bengal.
Kalyan Banerjee, also the TMC chief whip in the Lok Sabha, said top bureaucrats of the state were being “coerced and intimidated” and summoned to New Delhi at the behest of Home Minister Amit Shah.
“We want to inform you that law and order is within the domain of the state under 7th Schedule of the State list… How in respect of the law and order situation you can call both the officers for any sorts of discussion?” the TMC MP said in a letter he wrote to Bhalla.
“It appears that with a political motive and at the instance of your minister, who is a political person belonging to Bhartiya Janata Party, you have issued the said letter. You are trying to coerce the officers of West Bengal with political vindictiveness. It appears you are interfering with the federal structure,” Banerjee added.
Kalyan Banerjee insisted that since law and order is a state subject, top officials of a state cannot be summoned to the national capital to discuss issues related to that.
“We want to inform you that law and order is within the domain of the state under 7th Schedule of the State list…. How in respect of the law and order situation you can call both the officers for any sorts of discussion?” the TMC MP said in the letter.
He asserted the state government is accountable only to the legislative assembly with regard to law and order and “not to you or to your home minister”.
“Laws have been thrown out in river by your action at the instance of Shri Amit Shah, BJP leader and Union Home Minister,” Banerjee said, claiming indirect attempts were being made to impose Emergency in West Bengal.