News Update

CBEC Members' appointment issue continues to be pregnant with unpredictable outcomes!

By TIOL News Service

NEW DELHI, Aug 1, 2005 : THE issue of CBEC Members' appointment continues to be pregnant with unpredictable outcomes. No doubt, the stay granted to Mr I R Soni by the Delhi CAT against the filling up of the third post has been vacated but some of the observations of the Bench made in the absence of affidavits from the respondents clearly tend to favour Mr Soni. Meanwhile, the Chandigarh CAT has seen enough merit in the case of Mr S S Bedi and decided to continue the stay till August 17. In fact, his case is likely to be transferred to the Delhi Bench on August 12 and a combined hearing is in the pipeline.

In Mr Soni's case the CAT has observed in its iterim order that ''at this stage, prima facie, we cannot disbelieve the applicant that there has been no adverse entry against his integrity in the ACR throghout his service and that he had unblemished record of service. .....We also prima facie hold that the Committee of Secretaries has also taken into consideration adverse remarks against the integrity of the applicant made by the Chairman of the Board on the resume submitted by the applicant which was sent to the Revenue Secretary and thereafter was forwarded to the CoS without the applicant being apprised of such remarks and heard on it....In the absence of any rebuttal to all these facts, at this stage, we are constrained to hold that a prima facie case existed for consideration in favour of the applicant''.

Mr Soni has, in his petition, stated that in April/May he was given vigilance clearance by the DG (Vigilance). But on June 15, former Chairman A K Singh telephonically asked him to submit last three years resume and the same was forwarded to the RS with some derogatory remarks about his integrity and his name figuring in the 'agreed list'' for the past two years. This was done only to jeopardise his chances of becoming a Member.

What lends credence to his allegation is the fact that though CoS meetings took place on various occasions in May / June but always remained inconclusive. And till that time there was apparently nothing adverse against Mr Soni's candidature.

He further explains that though his name might have been on the 'agreed list' but he was given commendation certificate for his work as Chief Departmental Representative at Cestat. And then the DoP&T norms call for detailed inquiry before any adverse entry is made in his ACR. But the same was never communicated to him.

In Gurdial Singh Fijji Vs State of Punjab & Others the SC had observed that an adverse report in the confidential roll cannot be acted upon to deny promotional opportunity to an officer unless it is communicated to the person concerned and he had an opportunity to improve his work and conduct or circumstances leading to the report.

In fact, there is a DoP&T instruction issued in 1992 which states that representations against adverse remarks shoud be decided within three months and that remarks should not be deemed as operative if it has been pending.

The tribunal also made an interesting observation that there are no specific guidelines or administrative instructions regarding appointment to the post of Members.

It is indeed very unfortunate that the system continues to be opaque and arbitrary but the IRS Associations of both the Revenue Boards never took up such a vital issue despite being a feeder cadre. Even no Finance Ministers so far ever thought about it as lack of transparency can always be used as a tool of manipulation. It would be in the interests of the systems and the Revenue Services that clear-cut selection norms should be put in place to avoid litigation and heartburns.