In a setback to the Naveen Patnaik government's apparent bid to counter Opposition parties' tirade against multi-crore coal scam by suspending an IAS officer, the Cuttack bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) here on Thursday granted an interim stay on the suspension order served on Srikanta Prusty last week.

The Tribunal Coram, comprising administrative member C.R. Mohapatra and Judicial member A.K. Patnaik, also asked the State government to file counters to Prusty's application within four weeks and asked the applicant to file rejoinder, if any, within two weeks thereafter.

Prusty, a 2003-batch IAS officer and currently posted as Director of Higher Education, was put under suspension on Saturday last for his alleged role and subsequent vigilance case against him in the coal scam during his tenure as general manager of Cuttack DIC between May 2007 and April 2010. For the same ground, the bureaucrat was also earlier put under suspension in July last which was, however, stayed by the CAT in August last with a direction that the stay on Prusty's suspension order would continue till he files an appeal before the appellate authority.

The Orissa High Court too in November last had confirmed the Tribunal order with a further observation that in case Prusty prefers an appeal, the delay in filing the appeal would be condoned.

But despite these protections from the Tribunal and High Court, the State government on February 5 served a second suspension order on the IAS officer stating that the appeal period for the suspended officer expired on August 31, 2010 as per All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules of 1969 which stipulates an appeal period of 45 days from the date of suspension.