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Extensions and Appointments: Why Basics Assume Importance?


General Manoj Pande Chief of the Army Staff India

Days before the announcement of results of the Lok Sabha elections on June 04, the Government has made some critical decisions on the top hierarchy of the military, the defence R & D and the civil services.


Clearly it is the prerogative of the political executive to make such decisions through the Appointments Committee of Cabinet yet a controversy has arisen over extension granted to the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Manoj C Pande on May 26 for a period of one month up to June 30. Rule 16 A (4) of the Army Rules 1954. The Rule states, “An Officer who has attained the age of retirement or has become due for such retirement on completion of his tenure, may be retained in the service for a further period by the Central Government, if the exigencies of the service so requires”.

 

In this case the exigency of service apparently is the possibility of a new government taking office and thus the necessity for continuity in the top military hierarchy particularly the Chief of the Army Staff. In normal course Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt General Upendra Dwivedi was to take over on super annuation of General Pande on the stipulated date of May 31 and would have been just a week or so in the chair with a new government due to take office post announcement of the election results on June 04.


General Dwivedi was placed as the Vice Chief to take over so to say a few days back and is in line with the natural process of selection being the seniormost General officer on the date of retirement of General Pande. Seniority in this case is determined by the relative merits or what is known as the IC No on passing out of the Academy where two officers have the same date of commissioning.


Southern Army Commander Lt General A K Singh and General Dwivedi have the same date of commissioning but the latter is deemed senior in terms of IC No and thus merits promotion as the Chief.


While it is believed that General Dwivedi’s name for the Chief has been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security, the new situation may demand drawing up a fresh list and here there is a degree of ambiguity. Interestingly both Singh and Dwivedi are due to retire on June 30, the same day as General Pande the Chief now with the extension.


Will the new government continue with the appointment of General Dwivedi or a fresh panel including new names will be evolved has become a matter of conjecture.


In the past extensions have taken place such as for Gen G G Bewoor, who was to retire on April 11, 1974 [those days the retirement was on the date of birth and not end of the month when an officer is born as now.


He was given a one-year extension, believed to be to deny Lt Gen Prem Bhagat who had to retire in the interim period of a year.


Then IAF Vice-Chief RKS Bhaduaria was appointed as Chief of the Air Staff even as he and then IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa were to retire on the same day Sept 30.


There is past precedence of the BJP led government and even Congress party when in power having superseded officers to appoint juniors though qualified to the posts of Chiefs.


It may be worth the while to avoid such controversies particularly for top armed forces appointments to prevent senior military officials currying political favours thus losing the professional balance so essential in an armed forces as India with 365/24/7 operational challenges internal and external.


DRDO Chief Extension


The extension of the DRDO chief by one year may be less controversial given that Mr Samir V Kamat is heading a reorganization of the organisation based on recommendations of a high-powered expert committee. A committee headed by former principal scientific advisor to govt, K Vijay Raghavan,  has sought to restructure 41 labs into 10 national labs to improve functional synergy and efficiency as reported by the Times of India. Government may look at Kamat completing this process.


Civil Services Appointments and Extensions


Senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Pradip Kumar Tripathi retiring on June 30  has been appointed as the secretary to the Lokpal of India and after retirement on contract basis for a period of two years beyond the date of his superannuation on usual terms and conditions applicable to re-employed central government officers.


Border management secretary Raj Kumar Goyal, a 1990-batch AGMUT cadre IAS officer, has been appointed as secretary, department of justice under the ministry of law and Justice.


Rajendra Kumar, a 1991-batch Tamil Nadu cadre officer, will replace Goyal as border management secretary under the ministry of home affairs (MHA).


New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) chairperson Amit Yadav, a 1991-batch AGMUT cadre IAS officer, has been named as officer on special duty in the department of social justice and empowerment to take over on July 31


Rakesh Ranjan, special secretary in the department of agriculture and farmers welfare, to the position of chairman of the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) as reported by the Hindustan Times.


MCC Period


The extensions and appointments have taken place when the model code of conduct (MCC) is in effect owing to the ongoing Lok Sabha polls. Government is possibly likely to justify the executive decisions based on exigencies of service, though how these will apply to the IAS appointments remains to be seen?

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