Faced with the twin challenges of not annoying Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party and addressing the growing public anger against the suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, the central government is struggling for options to deal with the controversy.
The UPA government, which depends on outside support from the Samajwadi Party for its survival, is facing severe criticism from the opposition parties for its alleged soft attitude towards the Akhilesh Yadav government on the matter.
Though minister of state for personnel V Narayanasamy said Nagpal was suspended without having been given a chance, his statement that the Centre was waiting for a report from the state made clear his helplessness.
Another clear indication that the Centre may not be able to do much in the matter came from home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who termed it as an “issue concerning the state.”There appears to be a mismatch in the public expectation from the central government on the issue and how much leeway the existing rules and regulations provide it.
A look at the All-India Service Rules that govern IAS officers show that the maximum discretion available to the Centre is revoking the suspension of an official after the state government sends its report within 45 days of taking action.
A senior government official said given the complexities involved in service rules, “good news for a courageous officer can Nagpal can come from the court, which has the power to immediately strike down the suspension”.
The official said despite the hype on the issue, “the fact remains that the state government has the power to institute disciplinary action against any official posted in its jurisdiction.”
Nagpal’s case brings back memories of Haryana’s whistleblower Indian Forest Service officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, who was suspended in 2006 for having exposed digging of an illegal canal in a wildlife sanctuary in the state.
His suspension was revoked by the environment ministry four years later, but only after Chaturvedi was made to run from pillar to post for justice.