Ruling in favour of transparency in high-level bureaucratic appointments, the Supreme Court has said the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) must give reasons in writing for its decision rejecting recommendations for a bureaucrat's appointment to a particular post.
A bench headed by Justice H.S. Bedi turned down the Centre’s plea that there was no rule requiring reasons to be recorded by the ACC for such decisions. The apex court upheld the verdict of the Delhi High Court, which asked the Centre to reconsider the case of Bhaskarendu Datta Majumdar for appointment as Director, Marketing in the State Trading Corporation (STC).
The verdict comes as an embarrassment to the government that had contended that the ACC was the final authority to make the selection and appointment and “it alone had the jurisdiction to determine the suitability of an officer”.
The government also claimed that ACC decisions were not open to challenge except on grounds of mala fide or other exceptional reasons. The court, however, emphasised that this authority was not absolute.
If the government was not accepting the recommendations of the departmental promotion committee, the SC ruled citing a 1995 case, “it must give reasons for so differing to ward off any attack of arbitrariness. Those reasons will have to be recorded in the file”.
Majumdar, who joined STC as Executive Secretary to the chairman-cum-managing Director in April 2001, was chief general manager when he applied for the post of Director (Marketing) in December 2005.
In March 2006, the Public Sector Enterprises Board shortlisted Majumdar and Neeraj Mishra. The Department of Commerce forwarded Majumdar’s name to the ACC for approval with his vigilance clearance.
Majumdar contended that the Home Minister, as the second member of the ACC, had also endorsed his name. But the then Cabinet Secretary — B.K. Chaturvedi, who had earlier been MD of STC — allegedly scuttled his appointment taking note of some serious allegations which at one point in time had been levelled against him.
This included departmental inquiries and two CBI cases involving Majumdar. But all the inquiries exonerated him. Ignoring the clean chits, the ACC did not clear his appointment.