The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) has ordered the state government to maintain status quo in the case of at least 14 forest and revenue officers transferred in accordance with Election Commission of India (ECI) directives.
The ECI had issued the directives on transfers to all states by way of preparations for the Lok Sabha elections to be held in April-May.
Since the passing of the status quo order, the ECI has approached the MAT, seeking to join a legal battle which shall show what prevails — the authority of the ECI to issue administrative directives it feels are necessary to ensure free and fair elections prevails or the Maharashtra Transfers Act (MTA) of 2005.
The MTA prohibits the transfer of any government employee if he has not completed three years in one posting.
The ECI had last month directed all states to transfer all officers whose names had been proposed in connection with the conduct of elections if they were serving in their home districts. It had also directed the transfer of those who had completed three years in the district of their present posting in the past four years or would be completing three years before May 31.
On Friday the ECI counsel had submitted its response to officials’ petitions challenging the transfers, but MAT chairman Justice (retired) S. Radhakrishnan refused to accept it, as the counsel had neither the required letter authorising him to appear in the matter nor the vakalatnama.
The matter was posted for further hearing on Tuesday, when the MAT is expected to hear the ECI. In keeping with the ECI directive, the state administration transferred several officers, from tahsildars and block development officers to additional collectors, and many of them approached the MAT challenging the transfers.
The MAT ordered the state to maintain status quo on petitions filed by 14 transferred officials, prima facie accepting their contention that the provisions of the MTA would prevail over the administrative directives of the ECI. The state is the only one to have brought a law into force that prohibits the transfer of government employees within three years of the previous transfer.