HC sets aside CAT order transferring Alapan’s plea to Delhi

The development comes as a major respite for former West Bengal Chief Secretary

The Calcutta High Court on Friday set aside the Central Administrative Tribunal’s Principal Bench order to transfer a petition by former West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to New Delhi.

“Promptness is appreciated, but over-zealousness to cater to the fiat of the Government, be it Central or State, is not, by courts of law as a tradition,” said an order by a Division Bench of Justices Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya and Justice Rabindranath Samanta of the Calcutta High Court.

Mr. Bandyopadhyay had moved the High Court challenging the October 22 order of the CAT’s Principal Bench allowing the Centre’s transfer petition in the case filed by him before the Kolkata Bench of the CAT.

“The entire modus operandi adopted by the Union of India reeks of mala fides. It is unfortunate that the Principal Bench of the CAT nurtured such efforts by passing the impugned transfer order, thereby paying obeisance to the diktat of the Union of India, which has been repeatedly held by the Supreme Court and various High Courts not to be a favoured litigant,” the order reads.

The development comes as a major respite for the former West Bengal Chief Secretary who has been at the receiving end of the Centre’s diktats since May 2021. Mr. Bandyopadhyay was transferred to Delhi after the Union Government raised objection that he did not participate in a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Kalaikunda airbase, despite both he and the West Bengal Chief Minister meeting the Prime Minister and taking his leave from the venue. In the midst of the controversy, Mr. Bandyopadhyay resigned and the Centre initiated an inquiry against him.

The court also questioned why less than 24-hour notice was given to Mr. Bandyopadhyay.

“The transfer petition was filed on October 20, 2021 and was disposed of on October 22, 2021, with less than 24 hours’ notice to the writ petitioner, who lives far off from the Principal Seat at New Delhi, upon refusing even a meaningful, let alone adequate, opportunity of hearing or notice to the opposite party, that is, the present writ petitioner. This shocks the judicial conscience, to say the least,” the court added.

‘Violation of right’

The High Court also stated that the impugned order of the Principal Bench not only violates the legal right conferred on the writ petitioner under Rule 6 of the CAT Rules but also leaves a bad taste due to the mode of operation of a quasi-judicial (if not judicial) authority and also poses a threat to the federal structure as envisioned by the makers of the Constitution.

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