Opposition forces RS adjournment protesting Aadhaar-linked benefits

While the documents accessed under RTI did not cover the entire UPA tenure, five such cases emerged from the UPA-II era

In over two years of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, the Prime Minister-led Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) has ordered deputation of more than 25 IAS, IPS and IFS officers against the policy.

Some of these deputations were for officers posted in offices of Union ministers, state chief ministers and governors. In one case, the officer concerned was a relative of Shivpal Singh Yadav, senior minister in Uttar Pradesh government, who wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking the officer’s deputation.

The department of personnel and training (DoPT) and the PMO did not reply to the queries sent by this reporter.

Documents on these cases were accessed under Right to Information. The NDA government is not alone in functioning on discretionary basis. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) did the same.

While the documents accessed under RTI did not cover the entire UPA tenure, five such cases emerged from the UPA-II era. Based on these, it’s neither fair nor possible to compare if discretion was used as often by the previous government or not. The list of officers sent on deputation by bending rules may not be an exhaustive one for the current government as well.

All-India Services officers — Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFS) — are allotted states at the beginning of their careers. They are allowed to serve another state government, the central government or other government agencies for a fixed period of time, known as ‘deputation’.

The ACC is the only authority to decide such cases. The DoPT works as the secretariat to the ACC. In the NDA government, the ACC is headed by the Prime Minister with the home minister as its member. The central government has rules, orders and guidelines that form the deputation policy. The central government has rules, orders and guidelines that collectively form the policy for deciding deputation. An officer applying for interstate deputation should have completed between 9 years and 18 years of service. Similarly, deputation to central government can be considered after five years of service.

In more than 20 cases under the NDA regime, the ACC sidestepped the deputation policy. In other cases, the ACC bent rules to do away with the mandatory “cooling period” between deputations. Officers with just two-three years of service and those with 20-25 years of service were transferred by the ACC upon requests.

The orders did not mention any specific provision that permitted such exceptions. The ACC gave various other reasons for relaxing the policy or guidelines. In some cases, it mentioned “spouse grounds” or “extreme hardship of medical nature in respect of an immediate family member”. Medical reasons were cited most often.

Business Standard had asked the PMO and the DoPT, on what basis the ACC had relaxed the norms in ordering deputations in select cases. The rules, office orders and guidelines regarding deputation of officers do not mention a provision for exception being made.

There is a unique case of Ajay Yadav, an officer of Tamil Nadu cadre. His application for transfer to Uttar Pradesh was twice rejected by the DoPT as he had only served for five years. But then, the PMO directly received a letter from the officer’s father-in-law and senior Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Singh Yadav, seeking transfer of the officer. The DoPT rejected the application for the third time, but the ACC approved it “relaxation of policy, as a special case”.

In another case, officer Mohammad Shahid was permitted to join the office of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat as an exception to the rules. Another high-profile case is of Durga Shakti Nagpal, who was appointed officer on special duty in the Union agriculture minister’s office, bypassing the rules. Her husband, also an officer, Abhishek Singh was simultaneously transferred to Delhi on inter-cadre deputation citing “spouse grounds”.