The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed former West Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay's challenge to the transfer of his application concerning proceedings against him from Kolkata to New Delhi by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Jyoti Singh said there was no reason to interfere with the transfer, and clarified that it has not expressed any opinion on the merits of the disciplinary proceedings, including the competence of the Centre to issue the charge-sheet.
The high court stated that the transfer order was passed within the four corners of the law which confers power on the CAT Chairman to transfer cases from one bench to another after hearing the parties concerned.
"This Court finds no infirmity in the exercise of the administrative power, either on the procedural aspects or on the merits. Being purely an administrative power of the Chairman, it is not for this Court to substitute its decision or wisdom for that of the Chairman as no illegality, arbitrariness or infirmity has been found in the decision making process," the court said in its 13-page order.
The court rejected the petitioner's contention that he was not granted the opportunity of hearing and said that stand was devoid of merit as the CAT order "clearly reflects" that he was duly represented by a team of lawyers including a senior counsel who had objected to the transfer and due notice was given to him.
It added that under Section 25 of the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985, there is no requirement for giving the parties a chance to file a formal written reply.
The court said the cause of action arose in New Delhi as the disciplinary proceedings as well as the inquiry proceedings were initiated and going on here.
"For all the aforesaid reasons, this Court finds no reason to interfere with the impugned order. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed along with the pending application," the court said.
Bandyopadhyay had moved the Kolkata bench of the CAT to challenge the proceedings initiated against him in a matter related to not attending a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the effects of cyclone 'Yaas' at the Kalaikunda Air Force Station on May 28 last year.
The proceedings against the petitioner were initiated by the Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievance and Pensions.
The counsel for the petitioner had argued that the transfer order was passed in complete violation of the principles of natural justice, equity and fair play as he was not even granted a right to file his written objections and the Centre's plea was allowed on the very first day of its listing.
He had claimed that convenience of the officer has to be considered while issuing the order and the petitioner ordinarily and permanently resides in Kolkata and the entire cause of action occurred within the jurisdiction of the Kolkata Bench of CAT.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, had said that till the time proceedings are virtual, it does not matter it happens in Kolkata or Delhi and the court can record his request or joint request that the hearing shall be held virtual before the CAT.
Bandyopadhyay, who was not released by the state government, chose to retire on May 31, 2021, his original date of superannuation before having been given an extension of three months from that date.
The Centre had filed a transfer petition before the principal bench of CAT, which on October 22 last year allowed the transfer of Bandyopadhyay's application to itself in New Delhi.
On January 6, the Supreme Court had set aside the Calcutta High Court order which quashed the CAT transfer order and granted Bandyopadhyay the liberty to assail the same before the jurisdictional high court.
The apex court had delivered its verdict on the plea filed by the Centre challenging the October 29, 2021 order of the Calcutta High Court.