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Modi govt amends law for Mishra

New Delhi, May 28: The government is understood to have amended a law through an ordinance to pave the way for Nripendra Mishra’s appointment as principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

PMO sources said this evening that Mishra was appointed principal secretary today. But Mishra had attended the cabinet meeting yesterday. It is unclear in what capacity he attended the meeting.

As a former chairperson of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Mishra was forbidden by law from holding any further government office. The Modi cabinet promulgated an ordinance to change the law and make his appointment legal.

The ordinance amended Section 5(8) of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, which states: “Chairperson or any other member ceasing to hold office as such, shall (a) be ineligible for further employment under the Central Government or any State Government; or (b) not accept any commercial employment, for a period of two years from the date he ceases to hold such office.”

Mishra, an IAS officer of the 1967 batch, was chairperson of Trai from 2006 to 2009.

There was no official communication from the government either on the promulgation of the ordinance or the appointment.

The ordinance route, an option for lawmaking when Parliament is not in session, is meant to be used sparingly and in an emergency.

This was why the UPA-II government, pushed by Rahul Gandhi to bring several anti-corruption and welfare bills through ordinances before the elections, had ultimately dropped the idea.

However, a top source in the Modi government contended there was “nothing amiss” about bringing an ordinance to reverse a clause in the Trai Act that might have barred Mishra’s appointment.

The source said since the Trai was the first regulatory authority to be set up, it was bound by the clause that barred its head from taking up any government assignment after demitting office. Subsequent regulatory authorities have a clause that stipulates a two-year cooling period, following which the head is free to take up another job.

“For the sake of one rule, should the Prime Minister be denied the services of one of the most upright and competent bureaucrats the services have produced?” the source asked.

But Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken pointed out that “the same BJP had opposed the Congress when we had brought food security and anti-corruption measures through ordinance”.