Modi government’s twin decisions

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Modi government’s twin decisions to sack tainted officers sends shock waves through bureacracy

Decisions to cut deadwood from bureaucracy through compulsory retirement and a parallel effort to infuse fresh blood from the private sector are being seen as a strong signal to bureaucrats to perform or perish.

The Modi government’s decision to prematurely retire top tax officials in large numbers has set the alarm bells ringing in bureaucratic circles. In a big clean-up exercise in the finance ministry, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has retired 27 top tax officials within a month after taking charge. While 15 officers of Central Board of Excise and Customs have been given compulsory retirement on Tuesday, even as new Lok Sabha members were taking oath of the office, a dozen officers of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had been compulsorily retired on June 10. Three major decisions taken in the first month of the second term of Prime Minister Modi, including a decision to induct 400 more bureaucrats at middle level, clearly demonstrate his will to completely overhaul the bureaucratic setup of the country.

These two decisions to cut the deadwood from the bureaucracy by giving compulsory retirement to tainted officers after attaining the age of 50 years and a simultaneous effort to infuse fresh blood by inducting 400 people from private sector are being seen as a strong signal to bureaucrats to either perform or perish.

“The provision was always there and now it has been used. I think the deadwood should be axed,” said a former bureaucrat who retired from the secretary level in government of India.
In the official orders, the government has separately listed names of all 15 officials at the rank of principal commissioner, commissioner, additional commissioner and deputy commissioner level, and individual charges against them, including charges of corruption.
The order said: “In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (j) of rule 56 of Fundamental Rules, The President hereby retires…..with immediate effect, he having already attained the age of 50 years.”
 Govt sacks 15 senior tax officers on charges of corruption, misconduct

Rule 56 of Fundamental Rules states that the appropriate authority has the absolute right to retire, if it is necessary to do so in public interest, a government servant under Fundamental Rules 56 (j), (i) or Rule 48 (1) (b) of CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972.

In the case of officers who have entered the government service before the age of 35 years and attained the age of 50 years and in other cases where the officers have attained the age of 55 years or have completed 30 years of service, the government begins periodic review three to six months in advance and takes a decision on the basis of effectiveness of an officer.

This is a potent tool in the hands of the Union government as the top court of the country has upheld its validity.

Supreme Court has not only held the validity of Fundamental Rules 56 but it has also held that there is no need to issue a show-cause notice to such officers before serving a retirement notice to the concerned officer under the provisions of FR 56 (j) and (i).

“These people are those who have completed more than 50 years. And the message has to be sent to others and that is why the government is sending the message,” said the former official cited above.

“It will send a strong message to bureaucrats. I think the message is very clear,” added the officer.
The 27 officers sacked this month belong to Indian Revenue Service (IRS) and the action has so far been confined to the ministry of finance. In its second term, Modi government has not taken any action against IAS and IPS officers. However, the same provisions can be exercised against other services as well.

As was the trend in earlier orders, the 15 CBIC officials have had cases against them related to disproportionate assets, impropriety, bribery, misuse of official position or even smuggling. Most of the cases had been initiated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and a couple of officials were already under suspension.

The first Narendra Modi government made an attempt to make use of this rule but it could get only about 230 officers to leave government service before their scheduled superannuation on grounds of non-performance/lack of integrity. This time round, the axe could fall on a few thousand at least, sources said.

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