Over a month after former TRAI Chairman Nripendra Misra was appointed as principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, government on Friday brought a bill in Lok Sabha to remove legal hurdles in the appointment, amid objections by Trinamool Congress members.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill is to replace an ordinance issued on May 28 to change a clause in the TRAI Act by which Misra could not have been appointed to any government post after retirement.
Misra, a 1967-batch retired IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre who retired in 2009, joined the PMO the same day the ordinance was promulgated and the bill was being brought to give his appointment the requisite legal backing.
Before the Ordinance was promulgated, the TRAI Act prohibited its chairman and members from taking up any other job in central or state governments after demitting office.
“The 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,” says the TRAI Act of 1997 available on the law ministry website.
To circumvent this section, the Modi government promulgated an ordinance amending this section.
The amended section now reads as: “The chairperson and the whole-time members shall not, for a period of two years from the date on which they cease to hold office as such, except with the previous approval of the Central government, accept “(a) any employment either under the Central government or under any state government; or “(b) any appointment in any company in the business of telecommunication service.”
Just when Speaker Sumitra Mahajan directed that the bill be introduced, senior TMC member Saugata Roy objected to saying it violated the rules of procedures.
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rejected the objection saying there was “no merit in it”.
Prasad also said the government was in “full powers to bring the bill” and the effort was to bring TRAI on par with other similar organisations like the Competition Commission.
The TMC leader said the measure was being brought “merely to give a government job to a superannuated TRAI Chairman, thereby taking away the independence of TRAI.”
The principal secretary to the PM is a key post and acts as main link for coordination among Prime Minister’s Office, cabinet secretariat and secretaries of ministries.
Misra’s appointment as principal secretary will be co-terminus with the term of the PM or till further orders, according to an order issued by the Ministry of Personnel.
BJP issued a whip to its members asking them to support the Bill, said a party MP.
Later, Prasad told reporters that “we are only pushing this bill based on clear merits. And we are quite confident it will be passed in both the Houses.”