Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
If the judgment of the Supreme Court of India delivered on 04 August 2006 is not wrongly read, it would make it crystal clear that, the last promotion to Indian Administrative Service (IAS) from Orissa Administrative Service (OAS) cadre was guided not by principles in force but by extraneous considerations.
It is astonishing that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who has shown uncommon agility in dropping any of his ministers on allegation of corruption, is yet to act against the corrupt coterie with the help of which the illegally promoted persons are still drawing the salary they are not entitled to and still enjoying the status they are not qualified for.
I do not think that Naveen Patnaik had any personal role in the promotion that has now been stamped as illegal finally by Supreme Court. But when the State does not rise in right response to observations of the Judiciary to correct the wrong it has perpetrated, he being the holder of the portfolio, who should explain the position?
Let us look at the position from the corridors of the Supreme Court.
Mr. J. P. Agrawal had gone there seeking nullification of an order of the High Court of Orissa. The Supreme Court refused even to admit the case.
Who is J.P.Agrawal?
He is Jagdish Prasad Agrawal, an OAS officer illegally elevated to IAS. In disapproving his promotion to IAS, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) had expressed concern over the use of administrative machinery to suppress vital facts about punishment awarded to him for misconduct in the memorandum prepared for the Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC). The CAT action, on challenge, had been endorsed by the High Court.
But Agrawal was not the only one whose promotion to IAS smacks of manipulation. We may look into the matter to have a cursory view of how corrupt have become the higher echelon of Orissa bureaucracy.
In 2002 eight officers of OAS were selected to IAS. But the most suitable officers were discarded in favor of the deficient ones.
This was challenged by Shri Aswini Kumar Das, presently the Collector of Puri and Shri Pramod Chandra Patnaik, Collector of Nuapada before the Central Administrative Tribunal in O.A. No.2/2004.
The crux of their allegations was that these Officers were promoted to the I.A.S. without evaluation of their suitability on the matrix of their complete Service Records and notwithstanding the adverse entries in their Confidential Character Rolls (C.C.R.) and the punishments imposed through disciplinary proceedings. It was specifically alleged that Shri J.P.Agrawal and Shri Satyananda Sethi had got punishment in disciplinary proceedings, but this fact was suppressed. Similarly, when there was a question mark on the integrity of one officer and such adverse entry was not counter balanced by the prescribed authority i.e. the Chief Secretary, he was also selected. Shri Balakrishna Sahu having adverse entry in the C.C.R. and having been superseded in promotion to Senior Class-I and later to Joint Secretary rank, also got selected whereas the two petitioners, Mr. Das and Mr. Patnaik, having unblemished Service Records and ‘Outstanding’ grading for continuous five years were discarded.
Baffling it is that on consideration of the same bunch of C.C.Rs i.e. from 1996-97 to 2000-2001 Mr. Patnaik, who, having continuous Outstanding remarks therein, had superseded others in promotion to the rank of Additional Secretary, was rejected for promotion to I.A.S.whereas the superseded officers bagged the promotion.
Out of the eight officers selected to I.A.S., only three officers had outstanding CCRs for five years and the rest five had no such distinction though one of these five, Raj Kishor Jena, who got the promotion had acquired outstanding remarks only for three months. It is surprising that these five officers have superseded Das and Patnaik who have been continuously placed in outstanding grade for five years and have always been considered unblemished.
On being apprised of this, and on the basis of documented pleadings, the CAT concluded in O.A. No.1255/2003 that the punishments inflicted on Shri J.P.Agrawal did not find place in the A.C.R. folder, as a result of which the Selection Committee did not get opportunity to be aware of such blemishes against any recommended persons. Mentioning about “startling facts” that revealed in course of hearing how some of the selected Officers did not enjoy blemishless career, the CAT had underlined that the Officers to be selected to I.A.S. should be beyond suspicion like the Ceasar’s wife. And, for this, the Selection Committee should review the C.C.Rs of at least eight years instead of five. But, if an Officer is graded as ‘Outstanding’, his entire service career should be scanned to ensure that his categorization as ‘Outstanding’ can never be questioned on the ground that in the past he did not enjoy blemishless service records. Therefore, the whole selection List was quashed and a review meeting was ordered for.
This order was appealed before the Orissa High Court by Shri Jagdish Prasad Agrawal in W.P. No.13445/2005 and Shri K.C.Mohapatra in W.P. No.13153/2004. A Bench consisting of the Chief Justice and Justice Madan Mohan Das upheld the above judgment of the Tribunal with a modification to the extent that the Selection Committee should see the C.C.Rs of Officers for past five years instead of eight. They relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter of Shri R.K.Das Vrs. Union of India (AIR 1987 SC(593), in which it has been stated that the Committee has to categorize the members of State services on the basis of entries available in their Character Rolls and thereafter to arrange their names in the proposed List in accordance with the principles laid down in Regulation 05. This was mandated to eliminate every possible scope for discrimination through application of different standard or criteria at different times for preparing the List.
Mr. Agrawal had gone against this Order of Orissa High Court.
After refusal of the Supreme Court to interfere with the Verdict of the Orissa High Court, it has been crystal clear that when the eight OAS officers were selected to IAS in 2002, the State Secretariat had been transformed into a breeding place of favoritism and clientelism and the selection was made in stark disregard to administrative impartialism.
As I look back, P.K.Mohanty, the then Chief Secretary, Srinibas Rath, the then Development Commissioner and Arun Kumar Panda, the then R.D.C.- all from Orissa and Gurbachan Singh, Member of U.P.S.C. assisted by Union Joint Secretary S.Jagadeesham comprised the Committee.
They were the senior most members of the bureaucracy. How could they prefer evidently deficient officers to the officers who had been graded ‘outstanding’ for continuous five years in their transparently blemish less service careers? They cannot say that they had not violated administrative acuity in order to select the unsuitable persons they selected. Now they should be asked to say as to why did they do it.
Had they gone through the list of Officers under the Zone of Consideration, Mr. Aswini K. Das and Mr. Promod Chandra Patnaik, the two most suitable officers, I am sure, would never have been discarded. But they did not do it. The Orissa officers did not help the U.P.S.C. and the Union Government in evaluating the suitability of the Officers concerned.
After the CAT verdict the State Government had known that a wrong has been done. It was the duty of the State Government to take correctional steps. But it did not act in that respect. Mohanty, relinquishing the Chief Secretary post has been awarded with the more coveted post of Chairman of Orissa Public Service Commission.
But the two most brilliant and outstanding officers are languishing in the State service cadre whereas the State Exchequer is being exploited for paying them the salary packages applicable to a cadre to which their illegal entrance has been declared null and void.
The State is under Peoples’ Representatives. Hence the authority above the Chief Secretary is the Chief Minister. If he has not compelled the Chief Secretary ( P.K.Mohanty as then he was) and his team in the Committee to supersede the most suitable officers by the tainted ones, in this case, he must take steps to punish this fellow for having corrupted administration as discussed above. Steps need be taken to determine the corrupt practices resorted to by each of the members in the concerned Committees in suppressing vital facts and in sloughing over the guiding laws.
The Constitution of India has created Public Service Commissions for only one purpose. That is elimination of favoritism in selection of Union or State Service Officers.
Any violation of this purpose is an offense against the Constitution.
Hence I expect the Chief Minister to understand that it is his duty to bring every offender in the instant case to books as an example of responsible parliamentary rule, and most importantly as a deterrent to any such manipulations in future.