Former Haryana transport secretary Ashok Khemka’s “painful” transfer last week has indicated that the 2013 Supreme Court ruling to protect civil servants from arbitrary transfers may not come to their rescue.
Haryana was one of the six states and union territories to have told the central government that it had constituted the civil services board to regulate transfer of civil servants on the lines ordered by the Supreme Court in 2013.
Under this ruling, the board had the powers to review the reasons for a transfer of the civil servant in question ahead of completing a two-year tenure and accordingly make its recommendations.
Khemka had completed just 128 days in the transport commissioner-cum-secretary’s chair when his insistence on enforcing the law prompted the government to send him packing to the archaeology and museums department .
This was his 45th transfer order in 23 years of service as an Indian Administrative Service officer. The SC ruling was the second attempt over the past decade to rein in state governments from arbitrary transfer of officers.
The first was by the previous UPA government led by Manmohan Singh a decade earlier who started out to bring in reforms in the civil services but seemed to have given up mid-way.
In his initial years, UPA I had been able to persuade 13 states and joint cadres such as Manipur-Tripura and the union territory cadre to notify provisions restricting frequent transfers of officers.
Haryana was one of them too. But these states too didn’t walk the talk. A study commissioned by the Centre to assess if the rule had delivered results indicated only eight of the 13 states/joint cadres had stuck to the rules. Haryana wasn’t one of them. “Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Haryana score a minimum tenure of 1.1 years tenure. Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand at 0.9 years average tenure are at the bottom of the list,” the report concluded.
The fixed tenure for civil servants rule could get some more lip service later this month when the minister of state (personnel) Jitendra Singh and department of personnel and training secretary Sanjay Kothari host a meeting of the states.
At the last meeting, they had “decided” to follow the SC directions on minimum tenure and provide quarterly reports.