Uttarakhand axe on ‘illegal’ Assembly appointments
Uttarakhand Speaker Ritu Khanduri on Friday said that some 480 appointments had been made to the Assembly secretariats in violation of rules since the year 2000, and that she had written to the state government to cancel 228 that had not been regularised.
“A total 480 appointments were made (since Uttarakhand’s formation in 2000), of which 252 were done till 2011 and have been regularised. I have written to the government to cancel the remaining 228 appointments, made since 2011, which were not regularised,” Khanduri told reporters in Dehradun.
“We are seeking legal opinion before deciding on the appointments made before 2011.”
Appointments to the Assembly secretariats in Dehradun and Gairsen (summer capital) are decided by the Speaker and generally rubber-stamped by the government. The Congress has alleged that under BJP rule, people related to or close to ruling party leaders and officials have been appointed illegally.
“All these (480) appointments were made without following Articles 14 (right to equality) and 16 (equality in employment) — without holding examinations, without advertising the vacancies, without informing the employment exchange or the public, and without constituting a selection committee,” Khanduri, Speaker since March 2022, said.
She said that 150 appointments had been made between 2011 and 2016, six in 2020 and 72 in 2021.
Uttarakhand witnessed Congress rule between 2002 and 2007, and between 2012 to 2017 (punctuated by bouts of President’s rule). The BJP was in power for the rest of the period between 2000 and 2022.
Khanduri said a three-member inquiry committee she had set up on September 3 had substantiated the charges of rule violations.
Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said his government would act on the recommendations of the Speaker and the inquiry committee.
State Congress president Karan Mahara, who had flagged the scandal, said: “Cancelling the appointments is not enough; we want to know what action is being taken against those involved.”
Mahara had earlier claimed that 129 people close to the ruling BJP had been appointed illegally, sought a CBI probe and threatened to move court.
“The PROs of a former cabinet minister, present woman minister and an organisational general secretary have been given jobs at the Assembly secretariats, and so have the wives of two OSDs (officers on special duty) of a former chief minister,” he had alleged.
Senior Congress leader Ganesh Godiyal had alleged: “Former Speaker Premchand Aggarwal was directly involved.”
Aggarwal was Speaker from March 2017 to March 2022 and is now finance and urban development minister. His tenure as Speaker coincided with those of three chief ministers: Trivendra Singh Rawat (March 2017 to March 2021), Tirath Singh Rawat (March 2021 to July 2021) and Dhami (chief minister since July 2021).
Trivendra had admitted to the irregularities, telling reporters: “This file was sent to me when I was chief minister but I refused to sign it. These 129 appointments were done after I left the chief minister’s chair.”
Aggarwal recently argued that it’s the “Speaker’s prerogative to appoint people to certain posts in the Assembly secretariat” and that “all norms were followed in these direct appointments”.
Khanduri said Assembly secretary Mukesh Singhal had been suspended. “His own appointment and promotions will be probed,” she said.
Khanduri had ordered Singhal’s room sealed on September 3 and sent him on indefinite leave.
Singhal could not be reached for comments.
While Khanduri was holding the news conference in her Assembly chamber, over 50 employees whose appointments would be cancelled gathered outside, requesting security to let them meet her.
They told reporters they hadn’t violated any rules from their side and didn’t know that norms were being flouted.
Khanduri left without meeting them.