What the ongoing power tussle shows are the complex dynamics of administrative authority in Delhi
The Delhi government finally got secretary, services, Ashish More to agree to a replacement by a new officer, but only after he was served a showcause notice by the minister in charge of the services department, Saurabh Bharadwaj. Earlier, the babu had refused to be transferred claiming that the power of the Delhi government to transfer and post officers independently has not yet been implemented — even after the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict.
Following the SC verdict, the AAP government in Delhi immediately moved to remove Mr More but the move hit a wall when it was claimed that according to the prevailing order from the ministry of home affairs (MHA), the authority to remove an officer rests with the lieutenant governor until the MHA either revokes or revises it.
Clearly, there are still grey areas, despite the five-judge bench order. What the ongoing power tussle shows are the complex dynamics of administrative authority in Delhi. The clash between the elected government and the LG’s office has been a long-standing issue, with each side claiming legitimate authority. It is hoped that we’ll see some clarity and guidance on the scope and extent of the elected government’s administrative authority in the days ahead.
Seeking accountability for damaged reputation
The case of Sandeep Silas, an IRTS officer from the 1984 batch, raises concerns about the irreparable damage caused to a babu’s reputation, even after corrective actions have been taken. Recently, the ACC headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved Mr Silas’ empanelment in Higher Administrative Grade (HAG) for the 2016-17 panel on a notional basis, almost three years after his superannuation and eight years after being falsely implicated in the “Rail Neer” scandal in 2015.
Sources have informed DKB that despite reports from the Railway Board Vigilance and the Central Vigilance Commission in 2016, clearly stating that “no case is made out” against Mr Silas, the railway ministry proceeded to issue a prosecution sanction against the officer, even disregarding the Delhi high court order quashing this sanction. Mr Silas, who interestingly, had earlier served as the private secretary to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge during his tenure as labour and employment minister, was subjected to custody, both by the CBI and subsequently by the judiciary, and his tenure as CCM (Catering) Northern Railway was cut short to just two months, due to a leave vacancy.
While a grievous wrong has been rectified, several babus and observers are asking questions about the role of key officers and the institutional negligence that led to a loss of reputation, career and harassment of the babu. It also serves as a reminder of the urgent need to address the systemic issues that allow such episodes to occur.
New CBI chief: A strategic move or partisan politics?
In the aftermath of the state Assembly elections in Karnataka, while one political battle may seem to have concluded, another one is brewing. The shifting battleground now lies within the power corridors rather than the polling stations. Just a day after the Congress party’s triumph, the Centre announced the selection of Karnataka DGP Praveen Sood as the new director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a two-year tenure, replacing the outgoing director Subodh Kumar Jaiswal.
Given that Mr Sood had been targeted by senior Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar, who denounced him as a “stooge of the BJP” and even demanded his arrest, the move is being seen by many as a deliberate attempt by the Modi Sarkar’s way to continue to make things difficult for the new Congress government in Karnataka. The choice of Mr Sood as the head of the CBI clearly indicates that he is the preferred candidate of the Centre. Consequently, Mr Sood is expected to resume his battle with Mr Shivakumar and the Congress Party, both of whom are vulnerable to corruption charges.
However, Mr Sood’s appointment did not come without a hitch. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Leader of the Opposition and a member of the three-member selection panel chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressed dissent by stating that Mr Sood’s name was not included in the original list submitted to the panel. Despite Mr Chowdhury’s reservations, Modi’s decision prevailed. And now that Mr Sood will sit in Delhi as the head of the powerful CBI, observers eagerly await the resurgence of the battle between the BJP and Congress. As the dust settles, only time will reveal the true motivations behind this decision and the impact it will have on the political landscape of Karnataka.