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Cong rings alarm on judiciary, bureaucracy

New Delhi, June 25: The Congress today accused the Prime Minister of plotting to centralise power, create a committed bureaucracy and judiciary and misrepresent facts, arguing that alarm bells should be ringing if this was the government’s agenda in the first month of its tenure.

Spokesperson Anand Sharma touched on several issues — denying cabinet ministers the right to appoint personal staff; discriminating against bureaucrats who worked in the previous government; trying to mislead the nation on ministers’ foreign travel and asset declaration; differences between the foreign and home ministries on Bangladesh; and interference in the functioning of universities — and said the nation should take them seriously.

The former minister termed the row leading to Gopal Subramanium’s withdrawal from consideration as Supreme Court judge “dangerous”.

He said: “He was requested to become a Supreme Court judge. If this is happening now, this is ominous. The government wants a committed judiciary, every institution is being sought to be politicised.”

Sharma said any attempt to centralise power would undermine the cabinet system of governance.

“Secretaries are being appointed by the PMO, which has usurped all powers. Secretaries have also been asked to report to the Prime Minister; their reports will be cleared by the PMO. What will be the responsibility of the ministers? Is the new government revisiting the principle of accountability? Even private secretaries and OSDs are being cleared by the PMO for the first time,” he said.

Sharma said bureaucrats worked for the country, not for any party, and were guided by service rules, so politics could not be the basis of discrimination. He was referring to a circular that said officers who were secretaries in the previous government should not be given that assignment.

“We never did that kind of scrutiny. This is a violation of the constitutional scheme that guarantees equality and provides protection to the bureaucracy. The PM is sending a message that officers committed to a particular ideology will be promoted and this is a serious matter,” he observed.

The Congress spokesperson claimed: “All secretaries have been told to repeal at least 10 laws. There are 76 departments and 80 secretaries. Let the nation know which 800 laws are going to be repealed. Laws are made to strengthen the regulatory framework and can’t be repealed in the name of simplification alone.”

He accused the Prime Minister of “manufacturing news” to show he was working. He said it was mandatory for ministers to declare assets and liabilities by July 31 every year but the old practice was being sold as a new order.

Sharma said foreign tours of ministers, secretaries and judges required political clearance by the external affairs ministry and the Prime Minister’s approval, but that too was being presented as an innovation. “This is a joke. Stop misleading the country.”