The Telegraph
Wednesday , June 11 , 2014
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‘Quit nudge’ row

New Delhi, June 10: The head of the country’s apex child rights body has taken Maneka Gandhi’s ministry to court, alleging she is being pressured to resign.

Kushal Singh, chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, says she received calls from the women and child development ministry’s joint secretary Sarada Ali Khan and additional secretary Anil B. Joshi on May 30 and June 2, respectively, asking her to step down.

“They called me and politely said the minister wanted me to step down. They told me that since a new government was in power, I had to quit,” Singh said.

Neither the two bureaucrats nor Maneka was available for comment despite several text messages to them.

Although the rules do not allow commission heads to be removed without clear grounds — such as mental health problems, some other indisposition or criminal charges — political appointees to such posts generally quit by themselves after a change of government.

But Singh, a 1974-batch IAS officer and a former Rajasthan chief secretary, says that since she is not a political appointee, she has no “moral duty to resign”.

She alleges that the phone calls “created a sense of indecision and affected my work”.

So, she approached Delhi High Court seeking a direction to the ministry not to remove her without following the procedure laid down in the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act 2005. Her tenure ends on October 10 this year.

The high court yesterday issued a notice to the ministry seeking its reply by the next date of hearing, July 28.

“I do not need anyone’s approval. I am an independent person and I have decided to take the issue to court. The rule of law must prevail,” Singh said.

Three other heads of commissions associated with Maneka’s ministry told The Telegraph that they too had received feelers to resign.

Prema Cariappa of the Central Social Welfare Board has already quit while Central Adoption Research Agency chairperson Rajender Singla has indicated he would resign soon.

But National Commission for Women chairperson Mamata Sharma, a political appointee, has asked the ministry to send her a written request.

“I shall resign only if I get a written direction from the government to do so,” said Sharma, whose tenure ends next month.

Sharma is also waiting for the Congress to tell her what she should do.