Babus fine-tune art of being selector and candidate

Can the head of a premier administrative selecting agency select himself for a plum post? To improve his own chances as a candidate, can he be allowed to turn a blind eye to applications addressed to him? Despite having many eligible candidates, can he be allowed to make the list so short that it reduces the selecting committee to a rubber stamp? Is this ethically acceptable?

Documents unearthed under Right to Information by Mumbai activist Girish Mittal, show abuse of trust and unconstitutional behaviour by A N Tiwari and Satyananda Mishra — DoPT Secretaries who selected themselves as Central Information Commissioners, putting their own names on a tiny short list before the Prime Minister’s selecting committee to minimize the chances of them being rejected.

Many accomplished candidates who wrote with trust and hope to Tiwari and Mishra, were sidelined without justification or any sort of procedure. Here are the names of a few who applied for the post of CIC:

  • Dinesh Chandra Gupta, former Union Finance Secretary
  • G C Srivastava, IAS, former Chief Secretary of Goa
  • R Ganesan & G Mohanakumar from Indian Postal Services (IPoS)
  • Jagdeep Chhokar, Professor, IIM Ahmedabad. Qualifications: LLB, MBA, Double graduate Engg.
  • Lt. Gen. Arvind Mahajan, PVSM, AVSM, VSM and Bar.

Judging at a glance the various biodatas (see document at the end of the post) received by him, it appears that these candidates were at least as deserving as A N Tiwari, if not more. One of them would probably have been Information Commissioner today if Tiwari had not reserved a seat for himself. Please note: RESERVED. Because, unlike other Commissioners appointed in that batch, Tiwari did not even write a reply to the offer letter. Nor did he promptly give up his job and join the Central Information Commission in October like the others. He  took his time, and joined two-and-a-half months after the letter of offer, without even replying to it (see document at the end of the post). He exhausted his full tenure as an IAS officer to the last day. He retired upon superannuation, before occupying the seat of Information Commissioner.

How were these candidates to know that the DoPT secretary, to whom they were forwarding their candidatures, was himself their main competitor? DoPT (Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions) is a mother ministry to those serving in the administration. It is in charge of their placements. As such, Secretary DoPT occupies a sacred position of trust. A N Tiwari and Satyananda Mishra abused that trust for personal gain.

Satyananda Mishra also used his position to subtly campaign for appointment of more Information Commissioners towards the end of June 2008. In June 2008, PMO asked whether there was a need to expand the Commission. To this, Mishra wrote a self-serving note about the urgent need to appoint six more Commissioners. In July ’08, PMO specifically requested him to propose a panel of names for appointment of four more Information Commissioners. So what did Mishra do? Despite having a wealth of suitable candidates to choose from, he proposed only five names, including his own name. Thus, he reduced his chances of being rejected to 20 per cent at the outer most. Isn’t he a clever man? In August ’08, PM’s selecting committee rewarded his cleverness by making him an Information Commissioner.

Shockingly, this betrayal of trust got an official stamp of acceptance from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Leader of Opposition L K Advani and former Home Minister Shivraj Patil. The selecting committee  — constituted under Section 12(3) of the RTI Act — accepted these malpractices unquestioningly. Consequently, DoPT Secretaries Tiwari and Mishra received formal letters of offer for CIC’s post from their own Under Secretaries.

While shortlisting eligible bridegrooms for his daughters, can a man put his own name in the list? If his family elders quietly give consent, can he become his own son-in-law? That is incest, right? Similarly, the appointments of CICs A N Tiwari and Satyanananda Mishra are abhorrent, and violate several constitutional norms and provisions.

Here is what Article 319 says for preventing self-selection in such instances:

On ceasing to hold office —

(a) the Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission shall be ineligible for further employment either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State;

(b) the Chairman of a State Public Service Commission shall be eligible for appointment as the Chairman or any other member of the Union Public Service Commission or as the Chairman of any other State Public Service Commission, but not for any other employment either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State;

(c) a member other than the Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission shall be eligible for appointment as the Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission, or as the Chairman of a State Public Service Commission, but not for any other employment either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State;

(d) a member other than the Chairman of a State Public Service Commission shall be eligible for appointment as the Chairman or any other member of the Union Public Service Commission or as the Chairman of that or any other State Public Service Commission, but not for any other employment either under the Government of India or under the Government of a State.

Why does Article 319 say all this? Because Public Service Commissions are bodies that help in selections — similar to DoPT’s role in selecting CIC/ICs.

Article 320 describes the role of Public Service Commissions:

(1) It shall be the duty of the Union and the State Public Service Commissions to conduct examinations for appointments to the services of the Union and the services of the State respectively.

(2) It shall also be the duty of the Union Public Service Commission, if requested by any two or more States so to do, to assist those States in framing and operating schemes of joint recruitment for any services for which candidates possessing special qualifications are required.

So isn’t it self-evident that, following the same constitutional principle, DoPT Secretaries must not be eligible for appointment to the post of CIC/IC?

And here is what Article 16 says about right to equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters of State employment:

(1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.

(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.”

So, fellow citizens, do you and I have as much opportunity to become Information Commissioners as Messrs A N Tiwari and Satyananda Mishra? You decide.

Click here to read the RTI document…

(This article was first published on Firstpost on July 19, 2011)

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