The Union government is planning to acquire for itself overriding powers to transfer IAS and IPS officers through Central deputation, doing away with the requirement of taking the approval of the State governments.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) wrote to the States on January 12 that the Union government proposes to amend Rule 6 (deputation of cadre officers) of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules 1954.
The Centre’s move is set to put it in a collision course with the States, particularly those ruled by the Opposition. The Hindu has learnt that at least six State governments had written to the DoPT opposing any such move, which include the States governed by the BJP and its allies.
The letter comes in the wake of shortage of All India Services (AIS) officers in Union Ministries. The DoPT said in its communication that the States “are not sponsoring an adequate number of officers for Central deputation”, and the number of officers is not sufficient to meet the requirement at the Centre.
The DoPT had earlier sent three letters on December 20 and 27 and January 6 seeking comments from the States but after six States opposed the move and the rest did not respond, it further revised the proposal. The States have been given time till January 25 to respond. A senior government official said if the States did not respond, the Ministry would send reminders and then notify the rules by publishing it in the Gazette of India.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the proposed amendment is against the “spirit of cooperative federalism” and the “amendment unilaterally mandates the State government to make such a number of officers available for deputation as prescribed under [the] Central Deputation Reserve.”
Last year, the DoPT had directed West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to report to its office hours after Ms. Banerjee allegedly skipped a review meeting on Cyclone Yaas with Mr. Modi. The 1987-batch IAS officer had never been on Central deputation and was to superannuate on May 31. He is now fighting a case against the Centre.
Kerala’s Law Minister P. Rajeeve, said the government would oppose the Centre’s proposal to amend the IAS (Cadre) rules “if it infringed on the cardinal principle of federalism”.
Mr. Rajeeve told The Hindu that the Left Democratic Front government was yet to weigh the issue.
Mr. Rajeeve said the administration would examine whether the proposed amendment was a bid to subvert the State’s authority guaranteed by the Constitution.
It would oppose any proposal to concentrate all executive power in the Central government. “The government will study the matter and develop a calibrated response soon,” the Minister said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had recently backed his Tamil Nadu counterpart M.K. Stalin’s strong opposition to the draft Indian Ports Bill. Kerala and Tamil Nadu felt the Bill weakened the State’s control over ports and harbours . Congress leader and former Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said the proposed amendment to the IAS cadre rules would enfeeble the State’s political control over the bureaucracy. It would hobble effective governance and create avoidable legal and administrative disputes. Moreover, the Centre could weaponise the bureaucracy against an elected State government. The Congress had opposed similar attempts by the Centre to quash provincial authority.
Sources in the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s office said the government would be sending a letter opposing the Centre’s proposed amendment. However, no official word was given on the content and grounds on which the amendment would be opposed.
When contacted, Maharashtra Chief Secretary Debashish Chakraborty said he was not aware of any letter and the department concerned was the General Administration Department (GAD) for the same. “Nothing to my knowledge as these changes in rules and regulations are very common. The concerned department is GAD.” The GAD is headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
According to the DoPT, for example, Bihar has a strength of 248 IAS officers, but only 32 are posted with the Centre. Out of 180 officers in Odisha, 25 are posted with the Central government. In Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, the number of cadre officers and those posted at the Centre stood at 125/20, 322/20 and 536/32 respectively.
Four amendments are proposed to Rule 6. One of the major changes proposed is if the State government delays posting a State cadre officer to the Centre and does not give effect to the Central government’s decision within the specified time, “the officer shall stand relieved from cadre from the date as may be specified by the Central government.” Presently, officers have to get a no-objection clearance from the State government for Central deputation.
The other change proposed is the Centre will decide the actual number of officers to be deputed to the Central government in consultation with the State and the latter should make eligible the names of such officers. According to existing norms, States have to depute the All India Services (AIS) officers, including the Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, to the Central government offices and at any point it cannot be more than 40% of the total cadre strength.
The third proposed amendment says that in case of any disagreement between the Centre and the State, the matter shall be decided by the Central government and the State shall give effect to the decision of the Centre “within a specified time.”
The fourth change proposed is that in specific situation where services of cadre officers are required by the Central government in “public interest” the State shall give effect to its decisions within a specified time.
The DoPT is the cadre controlling authority of IAS officers. Similar letters have been sent for deputation of Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service Officers (IFoS) after approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Environment Ministry respectively.
The Hindu reported on June 9, 2021 about the Personnel Ministry’s letter to the States cautioning them that not sending enough officers may affect the future cadre review proposals.
The DoPT had sent a similar letter in December 2020 but it was unable to fill vacancies at director and joint secretary level in various Central ministries. Around 40% or 390 Central Staffing Scheme (CSS) posts are at joint secretary level (more than 19 years experience) and 60% or 540 such posts are at the rank of deputy secretary (nine years) or director rank (14 years of service).
As per the latest offer list on the MHA’s website, only 10 IPS officers from States have offered themselves to be available for Central deputation, including four Director General rank officers and only two Superintendent of Police rank officers.
In 2020, the DoPT, to ensure that more officers come to the Centre, changed norms and made it mandatory for IAS officers from the 2007 batch onwards to mandatorily serve for two years in Central deputation within first 16 years of their service if they wanted to be empanelled for a joint secretary rank in the future.
Before any officer of the AIS is called for deputation to the Centre, his or her concurrence is required. The Establishment Officer in the DoPT invites nominations from the State governments. Once the nomination is received, their eligibility is scrutinised by a panel and then an offer list is prepared, usually with the State government on board.
(With inputs from Thiruvananthapuram and Mumbai)