Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nripendra Misra is PM's principal secretary

Retired IAS officer and former chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Nripendra Misra was finally appointed as principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday after a determined government swiftly promulgated an ordinance to clear the way for him to take over the coveted post.

The ordinance, conceptualized and cleared by the government in record speed, is designed to change the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, which forbade a chief of the regulatory body from "future employment under the central and state governments".

The ordinance, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet at its maiden meeting on Tuesday and was promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday, will override the Act.

The Modi government's decision to take the ordinance route for its maiden legislation, which struck many as odd, underlined its determination to have Misra in the crucial role of principal secretary to PM. Sources said the PM was aware of Misra's ineligibility because of the Trai Act, but decided to persist with his first choice for the crucial position by getting around the legal hurdle.

Misra scored high on parameters of integrity as well as leadership skills, attributes pre-requisite for Modi's plan to turn his office into a locomotive to drive the government. The fact that Misra, unlike several former bureaucrats, did not seek to curry favour with politicians tipped the selection scales in his favour.

Interestingly, soon after he took over as Trai chairman, Misra wrote to the communications ministry saying Section 5(h) of the Trai Act, which prohibited the head of the telecom regulator from taking up further employment, was unreasonable and should be done away with. In his plea, he argued that no such restriction applied to chairpersons and members of other important regulators like Competition Commission of India and Sebi.

Sources in the government justified the ordinance, saying this brought the service conditions of the Trai chairperson in line with those of heads of other regulatory bodies.

Congress, however, slammed the PM for taking the ordinance route for appointment of his principal secretary. "It is characteristic disregard of parliamentary and democratic norms. What was the urgency for a party that objected to an ordinance for food security and anti-corruption legislations to go for an ordinance to appoint an officer. This move is extremely out of place, glaring all the more when a Parliament session is in the offing in a week's time," chief spokesman Ajay Maken said.

Section 5(h) of the original Trai Act said the chairperson of the regulatory body, upon ceasing to hold such office, shall be ineligible for further employment under the central or state government, and not accept any commercial employment for a period of two years.

This provision, a department of personnel and training (DoPT) officer pointed out, would have clearly ruled out Misra, Trai chairman between 2006 and 2009, for the post of principal secretary to the PM. With Modi in no mood to let go of Misra due to what government sources said was a technicality, the only way out was to amend the Trai Act and drop the disabling provision.

According to sources, an ordinance to amend the Trai Act was drafted by the law ministry and moved for clearance by the Cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday afternoon. After Cabinet approval, the legislation was sent to the President, who is believed to have signed it on Wednesday afternoon. Misra's appointment order as principal secretary to the PM followed soon after promulgation of the ordinance.

Misra, whose appointment order says his term will be co-terminus with the tenure of the prime minister, is a 1967 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre.

No comments:

Post a Comment