Law

SC Guidelines Overlooked in Appointment of Himachal Public Service Panel Members

A RTI query has revealed that none of the appointees had applied for the posts and that no selection process was followed by the Himachal Pradesh government.

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh. Credit: PTI

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Himachal Pradesh government has appointed the chairperson and a member to its state public service commission without enacting the enabling law or issuing any executive order for framing the memorandum of procedure and administrative guidelines, a RTI query has revealed. This violates the directions passed by the Supreme Court, which said that arbitrary appointments of the chairperson and members of public service commission should be eliminated.

Appointed without applying

The query filed by lawyer-activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya also revealed that neither Major General (Retd.) Dharam Vir Singh Rana, who was appointed the chairperson, nor Meera Walia, who was appointed a member, had applied for the posts and that chief minister Virbhadra Singh, while deciding the appointments, did not discuss any other candidate for the posts. Incidentally, Walia is the wife of a retired IAS officer, Subhash Ahluwalia, who is the chief minister’s principal private secretary.

Averring that the case has highlighted how the Himachal Pradesh government did not show any respect for the orders of the Supreme Court, Bhattacharya said, “no fear of contempt and castigation appears to hound the chief minister and the bureaucrats of Himachal Pradesh”.

SC judgement had laid out guidelines

In a landmark judgment issued on February 15, 2013, in State of Punjab vs Salil Sabhlok, Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Madan B. Lokur had laid down certain guidelines. In his order, Justice Lokur had written that “given the experience in the making of such appointments, there is no doubt that until the state legislature enacts an appropriate law, the state of Punjab must step in and take urgent steps to frame a memorandum of procedure and administrative guidelines for the selection and appointment of the chairperson and members of the Punjab Public Service Commission, so that the possibility of arbitrary appointment is eliminated.”

Bhattacharya said the Himachal Pradesh government did not follow the order and took no steps to bring a legislation in the state assembly or to issue any executive order for framing the memorandum of procedure and administrative guidelines for the selection and appointment of the chairperson and members of the Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission.

No selection process followed

The file notings obtained by Bhattacharya through his RTI application dated May 17, 2017, have revealed that no selection process was evolved or followed by the Himachal Pradesh government while selecting Rana and Walia.

“In both of the cases, a note was initiated from the office of the additional chief secretary (personnel) Tarun Shridhar, asking the chief minister and the chief secretary to take a decision for appointment. The chief secretary just signed in his approval and the chief minister suggested the names of Meera Walia and Major General (Retd.) Dharam Vir Singh Rana as the member and the chairperson of Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission to the governor. The governor obliged by signing on the dotted lines the same day,” said Bhattacharya.

The RTI activist said the process of selection was, therefore, clearly “illegal and in gross violation of the order of the Supreme Court of India”.

“It clearly proves that the advocate general of Himachal Pradesh failed in his duties to bring in the notice of the state government the orders of the Supreme Court. The additional chief secretary (personnel) and the chief secretary committed contempt of court by not following and implementing the orders of the Supreme Court of India on such a vital issue,” he said.

“Honest working of public service panel compromised”

The arbitrariness in the appointment, Bhattacharya said, has compromised the “transparent and honest working” of the Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission.

The lawyer-activist, who had earlier taken up the Priyanka Gandhi land case, said he would be moving the Supreme Court next for filing a contempt of the court case against the erring officials of Himachal Pradesh.