An unprecedented new situation has developed at the secretary-level in the Narendra Modi sarkar
Government watchers are keenly watching the ongoing crosstalk between the Supreme Court and the Central government over the latter’s delay in filling the vacancies in the National Company Law Tribunals (NCLT) and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT). The vacancies have slowed down the insolvency proceedings thanks to the huge backlog of pending cases. The current strength of the former is only 30 members against a sanctioned strength of 63, while the latter is functioning with only eight members against the sanctioned 11 members. Further, both tribunals have functioned without a full-time chairperson for most of this year.
Stung by sharp criticism from the apex court on the delay, the government hastily announced the appointment of 18 more members to NCLT and also announced another acting chairperson for NCLAT. Unfortunately for the government, the SC remains unmoved. None else than Chief Justice N.V. Ramana has expressed displeasure at these new appointments, stating that the government ignored the candidates recommended by the selection committee. Now the government has agreed to reconsider these appointments within two weeks, essentially going back to the starting point.
Meanwhile, the apex court was equally harsh on the government for prematurely terminating the tenure of the acting chairperson of NCLAT Justice Ashok Iqbal Singh Cheema. It forced the government to reinstate Justice Cheema to be able to deliver the verdicts he was writing or face the event of the new law on tribunals being stayed suo motu.
The Centre has been forced to concede, but the Supreme Court is unlikely to take its eye off the issue. Watch this space for updates.
Kailashnathan is Gujarat’s ‘indispensable’ babu
Retirement age is only a number if you can make yourself indispensable. Gujarat cadre babu K. Kailashnathan knows this well. Though the 1979-batch IAS officer retired from service in 2013, he has since continued to work as chief principal secretary to the chief minister of the state. Since then, several CMs have come and gone, including but Mr Kailashnathan seems to have become a fixture in the chief minister’s office. After the new chief minister Bhupendra Patel was sworn in, among the first things the new dispensation did was to renew Mr Kailashnathan’s contract, yet again.
Clearly no rolling stone, the babu has found a way to make himself irreplaceable to whoever becomes the CM of Gujarat. He has been a constant in the tenures of former chief ministers Narendra Modi, Anandiben Patel and Vijay Rupani and is now going to serve Mr Patel. Even for the BJP government, which is quite generous in giving extensions to its favourite babus, this is a rare extravagance, which may puzzle many — unless some insiders choose to spill the beans on the babu’s extraordinary longevity in the corridors of power.
Gaping holes and now less hope
An unprecedented new situation has developed at the secretary-level in the Narendra Modi sarkar. The “babu shortage” at the Centre and also in multiple states, pointed out in this column in detail, now threatens to become a full-blown crisis if the government does not act fast. Fortunately we know, it can, at times.
There are 13 secretary-level vacancies, including in the all-important PMO, and with seven secretaries poised to retire at the end of the month, the number will shoot up to 20! The empty big rooms at the top mean that cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba and personnel secretary Deepak Khandekar are under immense pressure to end this peculiar situation swiftly if it is in their hands to do so.
Currently, sources inform DKB, at least 11 secretaries are holding a dual charge, and one is holding three responsibilities. S.K. Singh who is secretary of the department of administrative reforms is also overseeing the department of pensions and the ministry of development of the northeast region. At least two of those functions are critical. Meanwhile, the newly created cooperation ministry is still awaiting its first-ever secretary.
What makes all this more intriguing is that even as these vacancies grow, many officers of the 1989 batch who were empanelled for secretary-level posts back in February are still waiting and hoping that they may be summoned for these vacant slots. All these positions are critical ones, but the decision-making has increasingly become painfully slow.
The gradual loss of their hallowed turf during the NDA regime has been a sore point for the IAS lobby. But further delay in filling vacancies will reduce hope even among the promoted ones.