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Govt faux pas in court on GTA panel

Darjeeling, April 19: The state government today forwarded a panel of four IAS officers’ names to the GTA Sabha chief executive to choose the next principal secretary of the hill body, minutes after Calcutta High Court had been told that although the list was ready, it was yet to be signed by the chief minister.

Of the four officers proposed by the government, three are in the rank of the secretary or the principal secretary, while the fourth one is an additional secretary.

The GTA Sabha executive member, Binay Tamang, had approached the court, seeking the appointment of an officer in the rank of the secretary or the principal secretary in the GTA post. Saumitra Mohan who is presently discharging the duties of the GTA principal secretary, is an additional secretary, whose grade is below the secretary and the principal secretary.

A government counsel said “lack of communication” between the government and its legal panel had led to the “embarrassing” situation. “We keep asking the government for latest developments in the cases that we handle in court,” a government lawyer said.

“Even in this case, we had done the same. However, the government failed to inform us that it had sent a letter to the GTA forwarding a panel of names for selecting the principal secretary.”

The names of the four IAS officers proposed by home secretary Basudeb Banerjee are R.D. Meena, who is presently the land reforms commissioner and also the principal secretary of land and land reforms department, Shahidul Islam, secretary of minority affairs and madarsa education department, Kalipada Das, secretary, consumer affairs department, and Sukumar Ganai, additional secretary, higher education department.

The letter (No 880-HS/13), which Gurung received from Writers’ Buildings at 11.03am today, is, however, dated April 18, 2013. This essentially means that the letter signed by Basudeb Banerjee was written yesterday.

However, before the letter reached the GTA office, the advocate-general, Bimal Chatterjee, told Justice Dipankar Dutta: “The chief minister is indisposed and she could not sign the letter bearing the names of the officials. I pray for two days’ time to carry out the court’s directive.”

The court then directed Chatterjee to submit the names on April 24 and fixed the matter for hearing on that day. The AG made the statement around 10.45am.

Soon, Tamang, who was present in the court, came out and called up Gurung to inform him about the development. But Gurung told Tamang that he had already received the fax, which contained the names of four IAS officers from the home secretary.

The court had earlier directed the state government to provide a panel of three candidates by April 18. However, the case did not come up for hearing yesterday.

Chatterjee later said: “I have not received any letter containing the names of officials for the post of principal secretary, GTA. I will submit the letter on April 24 when the matter comes up for hearing.”

Asked which officer the GTA was likely to choose from the panel, Gurung said: “We will have to sit for a meeting and it will take at least two days to take a decision.”