With PD Achary’s , 64, extended tenure as the Secretary General of Lok Sabha expected to end shortly, one of the immediate tasks before the new Speaker will be to appoint his successor.
Achary’s contract is coming to an end and it is understood that before relinquishing his office the present speaker Somnath Chatterjee may give him further extension of three months so that work does not suffer when the 15th Lok Sabha is constituted and transacts important business during the budget session.
The secretary general is a pivotal post in Parliament. The incumbent is the adviser to the Speaker, to the members and the committees. He facilitates streamlined functioning of Parliament under the Speaker and helps in interpreting rules and norms which have been established over the years.
The position of the Lok Sabha secretary general has ordinarily been held by officers from the Lok Sabha secretariat since the job is also technical and legal in nature. Most of the earlier SGs — MN Kaul, SL Shankdher, Subhash Kashyap, CK Jain and GC Malhotra were from this service.
Somnath Chatterjee faced a major problem when the then Secretary General GC Malhotra was slated to retire on July, 31, 2005 as none of the serving officers was eligible for the post. He was personally not in favour of bringing in any IAS officer for the job.
Instead of giving an extension to his serving Secretary General, he decided to recall PD Achary who had retired as secretary, Lok Sabha, a month earlier on June 30, 2005. He appointed him as the SG on a contract of two years to succeed Malhotra. After the expiry of two years, Achary’s contract was renewed for another two years as no one had still become eligible.
The contract expires on June 16 unless he gets a further extension. Somehow similar situation as it existed after Malhotra’s retirement has arisen now. At present, the post of Secretary, Lok Sabha is lying vacant as no one is qualified to hold it.
On the other hand, three secretary rank officers—John Joesph, Rajagopalan Nair and SK Sharma—have recently retired in quick succession. None of them rose to the rank of secretary general as Achary was given two extensions.
Emulating the example set by Chatterjee, the new Speaker may have to appoint temporarily and on contractual basis, one amongst them, who in his opinion possesses the requisite legislative experience. Induction of an IAS officer in country’s supreme legislative institution may not be to the liking of those favouring legislative supremacy vis-à-vis the executive. This may also lead to avoidable controversy.
The appointment of the SG is as important as the appointment of a new Speaker who by available indications will be from the Congress party. Though several names have been doing the rounds, the final selection will be made by the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in consultation with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
After assuming office the Speaker will have to decide on his new Secretary General. As per established procedures, the SG has to be chosen by the Speaker in consultation with the Leader of the House and leader of Opposition from amongst members of the Lok Sabha secretariat who have made their mark in service of Parliament.
As on date, the post of secretary Lok Sabha ( who on promotion is appointed as the Secretary General) is lying vacant as no officer in the service is qualified to be appointed as such.