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SC raps Centre-state fight over cop

New Delhi, Aug. 19: The Supreme Court today ticked off the Centre and the Jayalalithaa government for “fighting” over an IPS officer’s deputation to the CBI, asking them not to make her “suffer indefinitely” with their “unbending stands”.

The state government first refused to relieve the Tamil Nadu cadre officer, Archana Ramasundaram, and then suspended her three months later in May when the Centre nudged her into joining her new post as CBI additional director nevertheless.

But while the court directed both governments to ensure that Archana was not “unnecessarily harassed”, it declined an immediate ruling.

It said it would first decide a question key to the country’s “federal structure” — whether a civil servant could go on central deputation without being relieved by the state where she worked.

Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, had urged the court to vacate its May 9 stay on Archana functioning in the CBI, complaining: “We are paying her for not doing any work since May.”

But the bench replied the issue related “to the very federal structure” and added: “Prima facie, the procedure seemed to have not been followed (in Archana joining the CBI).”

The bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices Kurien Joseph and R.F. Nariman set the next hearing for October 14.

The case relates to a petition moved by journalist and activist Vineet Narain arguing the Centre violated rules in appointing Archana to the CBI. Archana, a director-general of police, was chairperson of the Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services’ recruitment board.

“There seems to be an unbending stand of both the central government and the state government. It should not be that the officer is unnecessarily harassed,” Justice Lodha said.

“Why should the two governments take (up) a point which is difficult for the officer?”

He added: “When the state has refused to relieve her, the Centre must definitely not compel her to. Why should you in such a situation cause a serious harm to the services of an officer?”

Rohatgi said: “They (IAS and IPS officers) are not state government officials. They are central government officials.”

Senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, objected, saying an “important question of federalism is involved”.

Rohatgi said Tamil Nadu had in October 2013 suggested three names, including Archana’s, from the state cadre for deputation to the Centre.

Naphade shot back: “It does not mean we have relieved her. To relieve, there has to be an order in writing.”