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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Appointment to top govt posts only after strict IB scrutiny

Aloke Tikku, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 03, 2014
First Published: 14:14 IST(3/2/2014) | Last Updated: 15:21 IST(3/2/2014)

The government has decided to take a re-look at the extent and nature of background checks before appointing retired bureaucrats, judges and non-government officials to key positions in bodies such as the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and the Central Information Commission (CIC).

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By the time the exercise — that started last year — is over, private citizens may have to undergo a complete background check by the Intelligence Bureau before they are considered for such senior level positions.

This means they will have to list every detail about themselves for the IB to check, quite like the detailed antecedent checks that are carried out for every government official before their recruitment.

The trigger for the change was a suggestion by former chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra who argued there should not be any need for a Central Vigilance Commission clearance before appointing secretary — or those who retired recently.

Mishra argued that the CVC clearance — that had been introduced a few years ago – was slowing down the appointment process. “The assumption was that if somebody was fit to be a secretary to the government, he would not need any further clearance from the CVC in order to be appointed to a statutory/constitutional office,” he wrote in his letter released under the right to information law to retired naval officer, Lokesh Batra.

Mishra’s letter prompted the department of personnel — the equivalent of a human resource department in the private sector — to take a close look at the required clearances.

That is when it realised that there was no uniformity in the background checks.

According to files accessed under the information law, the IB — which was already tasked with antecedent and character verification report in some cases — could be roped in for providing clearances within a fixed time frame.

A firm view on the plan, however, would be taken only after getting the views from the CVC, CBI, IB and the ministries of law and home affairs. Batra said the search committee for selection of information commissioners headed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth did dispense with the need for a CVC report as an ad-hoc measure to cut the time gap. Instead, it directly asked the CBI if they were probing the short-listed candidates for the CIC.

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