Concerns that “frivolous” complaints against secretary-rank bureaucrats at the Centre could end up harassing them have prompted the government to give them a second protective shield.
The government last month set up a screening committee under Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar to examine all charges levelled at secretaries to the central government to decide if allegations against them should be chucked into the dustbin or investigated.
But many other proposals to tighten the law against corruption are still in the cold storage.
The Lok Pal Bill has been in the freezer for decades and there is no sign that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — who as an MP had signed a representation to enact the law — would push it within the government, and Parliament.
Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan recently refused to outline a deadline to move the Bill in Parliament, saying there was “no consensus” within the government on setting up the Lok Pal. He did not respond to queries if a mechanism had been created to evolve the elusive consensus.
There was, similarly, no consensus within the government on simplifying the law on forfeiture of property of corrupt officials who used slush funds to defend themselves in court. The CBI recommendation to tighten this provision was junked by the UPA government.
Last month’s memorandum issued by Dr S K Sarkar, Additional Secretary in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), however, does not appear to have encountered any of such problems.
It replaced the existing procedure where complaints against secretaries were either sent to DoPT or the ministry where the officer was posted for exam.
“Sometimes frivolous or vague complaints are also given importance meant for grave complaints,” the memo observed, building the case for screening all complaints by the panel headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
Already, the government has tied the CBI’s hands making it mandatory for the CBI to seek the government’s persmission before investigating or registering a case against an officer of JS rank or above. The new protective shield entails that complaints against secretary-rank officers, would first be scrutinised by the group headed by the Cabinet Secretary.