Mumbai, 11 June: Opaque and unaccountable selection of Information Commissioners is the tip of the iceberg. Girish Mittal’s RTI applications are unveiling a more widespread scam being carried on in broad daylight. There are literally hundreds of posts under various central ministries, theoretically meant for ‘eminent citizens’ from all walks of life, but in practice available only to political cronies, retiring bureaucrats and other insiders in the corridors of power. Ironically, various legal provisions and rules are cited as justification for such patently lawless appointments; the truth is that many of these legal provisions have no criteria for identifying suitable candidates. The appointment of 14 members of National Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare is a classic example of this.
I. Let us see how such posts are legitimately supposed to be filled.
A. What does the Constitution say?
Article 16 is about Equality of Opportunity in Matters of Public Employment. It says, “There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
B. What is DoPT’s acknowledged role?
As per DoPT’s induction material 2008: “The role of the Department of Personnel & Training can be conceptually divided into two parts, In its large nodal role, it acts as the formulator of policy and the watch-dog of the Government ensuring that certain accepted standards and norms, as laid down by it, are followed by all Ministries/Departments, in the recruitment, regulation of service conditions, posting/transfers, deputation of personnel as well as other related issues. Towards this end, guidelines are issued by it for the benefit of all Ministries/Departments and it monitors the implementation of these guidelines. It also advises all organizations of the Central Government on issues of personnel Management. At a more immediate level, the Department has the direct responsibility of being the cadre controlling authority for the IAS and the three Secretariat Services in the Central Secretariat. The Department also operates the Central Staffing Scheme under which suitable officers from All India Services and Group ‘A’ Central Services are selected and then placed in posts at the level of Deputy Secretary/Director and Joint Secretary, on the basis of tenure deputation. The Department also deals with cases of appointment to posts of Chairman, Managing Director, full-time functional Director/Member of the Board of Management of various Public Sector Undertakings/ Enterprises, Corporations, Banks and financial institutions. It also deals with the assignment of Indian experts to various developing countries.”
C. What do DoPT’s guidelines say?
Point 3(1)(i) of Search Committees guidelines 1994 says, “A Search Committee can be constituted only for posts that do not fall within UPSC’s purview. Point 3(1)(ii) says, “It is to be kept in mind that as a rule, appointments in government are to be made on the basis of open advertisement. Therefore, proper advertisement of vacancies to be filled up by direct recruitment is an essential requirement. There may, however, be situations where advertisement itself may not result in adequate response for recruitment to similar posts which require specialized scientific/technical knowledge and experience. It is only in these situations that Search Committee should normally be appointed to locate suitable persons with the desired qualifications and experience to augment the response to the advertisement.
Further, the introductory paragraph of Search Committee guidelines 2007 clarifies, “These instructions are primarily applicable to posts in the Government but also apply mutatis mutandis in the case of posts in autonomous / statutory organizations.”
II. Let us see the Information unearthed by RTI applications.
Activist Girish Mittal & his father Kishanlal filed RTI applications with several authorities under various central ministries asking about selection procedures.
a) RTI application to NCPSEW (National Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare) under Revenue Department of Finance Ministry
Information sought: Minutes of meetings held for selection of members of National Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare
Reply given: “There is no provision in law / rule of Income Tax Act 1962 to hold a meeting for selection of members of National Committee. In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 35 AC of the Income Tax Act read with sub-rule (1) and (3) of Rule 11G of Income Tax Rules 1962, the Central Government appoints the persons as Chairman and Members of the National Committee from among persons of eminence in public life.
b) RTI application to Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment
Information sought: In respect of various commissions under this ministry, viz. National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, National Minorities Commission, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, detailed information was sought about selection procedures followed.
Reply given: Replies have been received so far from three of these Commissions. They all are saying the same thing: All the replies blandly assert that the appointments are as per applicable legal provisions and rules. Appointments are being made without attracting applications, issuing advertisements or circulars, and holding meetings of selection committees as mandated by DoPT’s guidelines. No minutes of meetings or correspondence are being provided as to when and how these selections and appointments are made. In two of the three cases, Mittal is asked to inspect the records. National Commission for Backward Classes states that no such material exists. Information regarding names, designations and bio data of candidates who applied for the post is denied by all three Commissions on various grounds.
replies from three Commissions.
Mittal’s earlier investigations had unveiled appointments of Central Information Commissioners without any due procedure, and often in completely crooked and convoluted ways. The appointment of A N Tiwari, Satyananda Mishra and Omita Paul at Central Information Commission were terrible instances of lack of due procedure.
Clearly, accountability and transparency in appointments are missing throughout the administration.
III. Why the buck stops with DoPT.
DoPT’s induction material 2008 indicates that the buck stops with DoPT, which, being directly under the Prime Minister, is the only department empowered to tackle these malpractices in various ways. The induction material gives details of various watchdog mechanisms on corruption and administrative malpractices, all under DoPT:
4.5.1 Administrative Vigilance
An important element of personnel management is the maintenance of the professional ethics and standards of the bureaucracy. The Department of Personnel & Training determines Government policy for the maintenance of the integrity of the public services and eradication of corruption and coordinates the activities of various Ministries/Departments in that area. However, all Ministries/Departments and offices of the Government of India have the direct responsibility for the maintenance of discipline and integrity of their staff by taking preventive measures and eradication of corruption in their operational area of work.
4.6 Central Vigilance Commission
Advice on all vigilance matters is provided by Central Vigilance Commission. It has jurisdiction and power in respect of all matters to which the executive power of the Central Government extends. The Commission enjoys the same measure of independence and autonomy as the Union public Service Commission. The Commission has its office at Satarkta Bhavan, INA Colony, New Delhi.
4.7 Central Bureau of Investigation
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of the country and watchdog of the nation to arrest the growing menace of corruption as also to investigate the various types of banking, non-banking and the multitude of economic and other conventional offences. A new addition to its function is investigation of inquiries into terrorist crimes, vandalism etc. Cases are referred to this agency, on the basis of concurrence of the State Governments, by the High Court as well as by the Supreme Court and there is an ever growing public demand for CBI investigation on account of the general perception that investigation by the CBI is more objective. The CBI has its headquarters office in Block No. 3, CGO Complex, New Delhi.
4.8 Joint Consultative Machinery
There is a well-structured machinery for joint consultation between the Central Government and its employees on a wide variety of service matters having a bearing on the administration and the general interests of the Government employees. It is a three-tier machinery consisting of the National Council, the Department Council and the Regional/Office Council. Service matters, pertaining to the interests of the generality of the employees or specific groups of them, are dealt with by this machinery.
4.9 Central Administrative Tribunal
In spite of the elaborate system of rules and regulations, which govern personnel management, there are Government employees who feel aggrieved by the Government decisions. The courts used to take many year to decide these cases and litigation was expensive. In order to provide speedy and inexpensive justice to employees aggrieved by Government decisions, the Government set up the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in 1985, which now deals with all cases relating to service matters which were previously dealt with by courts up to and including the High Court. There are now 17 regular Benches of the CAT functioning in various parts of the country, including its Principal Bench at Delhi.
For updates and queries, contact Girish Mittal firstname.lastname@example.org.