New Delhi, July 20: The Centre may have exercised its prerogative to shunt Kamal Pande out as cabinet secretary. But it appears to have violated a “fundamental” rule when it rehabilitated him in the inter-state council.
The United Progressive Alliance government last month replaced Pande with Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer B.K. Chaturvedi. Pande was then made secretary of the inter-state council secretariat and was to hold the rank and pay of cabinet secretary till October 31.
But officials say he is not entitled to continue in government service any longer. Pande took over as cabinet secretary on November 1, 2002, on a two-year term and was the first cabinet secretary to have a fixed tenure. He benefited from an amendment in the “fundamental rules”, which stipulate the ground rules and procedures for government servants, that gave his influential predecessor as cabinet secretary T.R. Prasad a series of extensions.
The provision enables the Centre to give the cabinet secretary extensions for a maximum of two years. Pande thus continued to hold the cabinet secretary’s post beyond June 2003 when he turned 60.
Officials say Pande could benefit from this exception only as long as he was cabinet secretary. “There is a sea of a difference between holding the office of a minister and being accorded the rank of a minister,” an official said by way of comparison.
Once Pande ceased to be cabinet secretary, the rule that government officers retire at 60 should have applied to him. “His appointment does appear to be technically flawed,” the official said.
Senior government officials were surprised that Pande agreed to head the inter-state council. They feel he should have quit, not just to escape the humiliation of having to occupy an office held by a bureaucrat three years his junior but also to avoid violating rules. “Especially as cabinet secretary, Pande had earned himself a reputation of being a stickler for rules,” the official added.
In taking up the job, Pande appears to have ended the one-upmanship — at least temporarily — that has traditionally existed between the Indian Police Service and Indian Administrative Service.
“We concede their seniormost officer has laid the right example,” a bureaucrat said.
The reference was to former Intelligence Bureau chief K.P. Singh who refused to take up any other posting after being removed from his post this month.