Officers and employees of the Election Commission of India have written to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi and Election Commissioners O P Rawat and A K Joti, opposing a purported move to retain Zaidi’s principal private secretary (PPS) after his retirement. The poll panel has denied that such a proposal ever existed.
Zaidi will complete his term as CEC on July 6. Ashwini Kumar, who was working in the Civil Aviation Ministry, was appointed as his PPS in August 2012.
According to the representation submitted by several EC employees and officers, accessed by The Indian Express, they have objected to the commission allegedly trying to retain Kumar as an assistant section officer or ASO after Zaidi’s retirement.
They have demanded that Kumar be repatriated to his parent department once the CEC retires as his appointment as PPS was on co-terminus basis —meaning that the appointment will expire with Zaidi’s retirement.
They have argued that Kumar’s purported “absorption” in the commission could affect the promotion prospects of other officers and staff already working in the EC. Kumar’s lateral entry into the commission, they said, could deprive an existing officer of a promotion.
The representation also claims that the recruitment rules of the poll panel do not contain any provision for retention of officers appointed on co-terminus basis.
The Election Commission of India Employees’ Union is learnt to have submitted a similar representation to the three election commissioners this week opposing any future move to hold Kumar back.
However, a section of officers and employees have also written letters of support for Kumar, stating that they have no objection if he were to be absorbed in the commission. Sources told The Indian Express that Kumar has recently applied for leave in which he has stated his intention to go back to his parent department after Zaidi retires.
Responding to The Indian Express’s questionnaire via email, the EC denied that there was any proposal to retain Kumar. “As of now, there is no proposal of absorption of Shri Ashwani Kumar as ASO in the commission,” Dhirendra Ojha, media officer and director at EC, said in his reply sent on Tuesday evening.
Asked if more than 100 employees of EC had written to Joti and Rawat opposing Kumar’s absorption, Ojha said, “Some employees belonging to stenographer cadre have made a representation to the Hon’ble Commission comprising Honourable Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners to not absorb Shri Ashwini Kumar. It is wrong to say that 100 or more employees have given their representations.”
To the question whether Kumar was appointed on co-terminus basis and if the commission’s recruitment rules permit permanent absorption of someone appointed on co-terminus basis in the CEC’s office, he said, “Any absorption is an administrative process internal to an organisation and may be undertaken from time to time based on the needs and as per extant rules of the organisation. Absorption of some suitable officials from different departments who came to Commission on deputation was done on earlier occasions also in the Election Commission of India.”