The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has stayed the selection to the post of director general, Archaeological Survey of India (DG, ASI) taking cognizance of a former ASI officer's petition about flaws in the constitution of the selection committee and the procedure adopted for short listing of the candidate.
It has also asked the ministry of culture to file an explanation by August 12.
As HT had reported earlier, the selection process for the DG's post had been mired in controversy right since the constitution of the selection committee. The list of five names short listed by this committee are now pending at the Cabinet Committee of Appointment's (CCA) level.
The selection process is already running late as the first professional archaeologist DG had retired in January. Currently, an IAS officer is holding temporary charge of the post.
The CAT stay came after Dr DV Sharma pointed out problems with the members of the ministry's selection committee. "The constitution of the selection committee itself is bad and also the process and the procedure adopted for short-listing (candidates for the post of DG, ASI) is also illegal and needs to be initiated afresh as per legal procedure of law," Sharma, who retired as a director from the ASI, said in his submission.
The controversy was further ignited when KP Poonacha, who had retired as ASI's joint director general after 35 years of service, shot off a letter to the cabinet secretary drawing attention to "glaring omission" on part of one of the committee members, whom the short listed candidates called 'buaji'.
In May, the CAT had asked Sharma to submit a representation to the ministry and come back to it only if there was no reply or the reply was unsatisfactory. Sharma had immediately written to the culture minister and also to the secretary (culture).
But when he did not receive any response from either of them, even after a month, he returned to the CAT.
The CAT then heard his side and issued notice to the ministry of culture returnable on August 12. Rajinder Nischal took notice on behalf of the government of India, ministry of culture, and ministry of DoP&T and sought four weeks' time for filing counter reply.
"Meanwhile, any selection to the post of DG, ASI shall be subjected to the result of the case," the CAT bench declared last week.
Sharma had pointing fingers at an "incompetent" member of the selection committee, whose rank was lower than ASI's superintending archaeologist. His other contention was that there were three academics when the ministry was trying to bring about a change by appointing professionals to head cultural institutions.