United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking the government to intervene in IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal’s case triggered the Cabinet Secretary to hold confabulations with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on Saturday to explore options before the Central government.
But the meeting failed to yield results. DoPT officials said the Centre could not step in until the aggrieved officer appealed to it. It was pointed out that the Centre had come to the aid of officers of Central services who had sought help, but the DoPT officials advised the Cabinet Secretary that service rules did not provide space for pro-active action in this case.
The meeting took place a day after Ms. Gandhi wrote to Dr. Singh, saying: “We must ensure that the officer is not unfairly treated. At the same time, this particular instance has highlighted the need to assess whether there are adequate safeguards in place to protect executive functionaries working beyond the average call of duty to uphold the rule of law.”
She noted, “It is reported that Ms. Durga Shakti Nagpal, a young IAS officer of U.P., has been hastily suspended for unsubstantiated reasons.”
Ms. Nagpal had undertaken a drive against illegal sand mining in her district but was suspended by the Samajwadi Party government for allegedly demolishing a wall of an under-construction mosque.
Informed sources told The Hindu that officers of the DoPT and the Cabinet Secretariat went into the service rules on August 3 to find a route for the Centre to step in but did not reach a decision. Deliberations were also held on changing the rules to provide greater role for the Centre for aiding such aggrieved officers in future.
The DoPT had taken a position against such interventions, advising that the Centre cannot step in if aggrieved officers are working under their parent States and not on Central deputation.
Ms. Gandhi in her letter to Dr. Singh has asked the government to assess whether the existing safeguards are adequate for protecting officers doing their duty and if any other administrative reforms are required.
Under the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules 1969, an officer can appeal against the suspension order of a State government she or he is serving under.
The officer must do so within 45 days of being served suspension order by the State government. The government must also initiate disciplinary proceedings within 45 days of suspension of the officer. An enquiry against the suspended officer has to be completed within a period of one year if the charges do not relate to corruption.
If the aggrieved officer does appeal to the Centre, the latter can step in as the cadre-controlling authority to cancel the suspension — an order that can be argued against by the State government under rare and specific circumstances.
While the Centre has received a report from the U.P. government on the matter, the officer has not written to the Centre for relief.