New Delhi, Aug 11: The central government can revoke the suspension of young IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, who became the cause celebre of the nation after she was punished by Uttar Pradesh's Samajwadi Party government for apparently taking on powerful vested interests, former top bureaucrats have said while lauding the "courage" of the young sub-divisional magistrate (SDM).
"No punishment can be given to an IAS officer without the concurrence of the centre. In this case, the centre can revoke the suspension," former cabinet secretary Prabhat Kumar told IANS.
Durga Shakti Nagpal, 28-year-old Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of 2009 batch posted in Gautam Budh Nagar district adjoining the national capital, was suspended by the Uttar Pradesh government July 29 for ordering the razing of a village wall erected illegally by a mosque on the ground that it would have affected communal harmony.
But the ostensible reason appeared to be that the officer had taken on the state's powerful sand mafia, who were backed by influential state politicians, and were illegally mining the river beds which environmentalists said had severely damaged the local ecosystem.
Explaining the IAS rules, Prabhat Kumar said that the state government cannot indefinitely sit on a suspension order against an officer and must report the matter and any punishment thereof to the central government within three months.
"The centre's role comes at that stage. The President of India appoints an IAS officer, not a state government," he pointed out.
Former Rajya Sabha secretary general V.K. Agnihotri seconded this, saying that before the state government decides to punish Nagpal, it would have to give her a chance to reply to the chargesheet and conduct a detailed inquiry, including lining up witnesses.
"A detailed inquiry would have to be done. Any punishment can be given then only with the concurrence of the centre," Agnihotri told IANS.
Both former union home secretaries G.K. Pillai and R.K. Singh also maintained the centre's view would prevail in this case.
"The central government has the power to revoke the suspension," Pillai told IANS.
"If she appeals, the centre can intervene," R.K. Singh told IANS.
The former bureaucrats were all praise for Nagpal's "courage" and said her "bold action" has inspired many young serving IAS officers.
"She did the right thing. She will leave her footprints on the sands of time," said Agnihotri.
"Many young serving IAS officers have approached me saying they feel inspired by her. We appreciate what she has done at such a young age," Prabhat Kumar said.
"An upright officer is being targeted by vested interests," was how R.K. Singh described the situation.
The controversy has grown as the SP government went ahead with the charge-sheet against her after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to "ensure that the officer was not treated unfairly". Later, SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said the centre could withdraw all IAS officers from the state.
The seemingly unceasing mining operation on the Yamuna and Hindon riverbeds in western Uttar Pradesh is encouraged by the increasing demand for sand for construction by realtors, mostly operating in the Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad areas.
A government panel said it had found "rampant" illegal sand mining along the Yamuna river in many parts of Gautam Budh Nagar district. This, it said, was in violation of environmental regulations and court judgements.