October 7, 2021 9:28:49 am
Senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka’s request for central empanelment has been turned down by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) citing “nil central experience”, The Indian Express has learnt.
The 1991-batch officer is currently Principal Secretary of Haryana’s Archives, Archaeology & Museums department.
After filing repeated representations with Centre seeking empanelment as Additional Secretary, the officer moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court to get his representation considered. The high court, on August 24, directed the Centre to “pass a speaking order”on the fresh representation.
This representation, filed on September 2, reads: “My integrity has been my biggest sin and I am punished for committing this sin. Through this representation, I humbly request you for a fair and timely consideration towards my empanelment as Additional Secretary to the Government of India along with a personal hearing”.
Acting on the high court’s directions, the DoPT considered the representation but replied that since Khemka had no experience of working in the central government, he cannot be considered for empanelment as Additional Secretary, The Indian Express has learnt.
Khemka, in his representation, had cited 40 cases in which the Centre had relaxed this experience norm.
“The empanelment process has created a Lutyens barrier shielding a select set of officers at the Centre from competition.
Some of the best and fearless minds serving in States are unfairly excluded from the empanelment process. The empanelment process tends to favour the sycophants and the pusillanimous types. Officers involved in scams in the past successfully passed the empanelment tests and were rewarded with post-retirement sinecures,” Khemka had said.
The senior IAS officer also mentioned how the BJP highlighted the Robert Vadra-DLF-Skylight hospitality land deal, in the run-up to 2014 general elections, which was unearthed by him. “Huge scams like 2G spectrum, Coal-gate, License black-marketing could happen despite the empanelment. An example is DLF-Skylight Hospitality land deal which was extensively highlighted by the BJP and the Hon’ble Prime Minister during the 2014 election campaign as the Vadra “get-rich-quick”model. The BJP distributed a booklet titled ‘Damad Shree – The Vadra get-rich-quick model’ during 2014 general elections, where the land-license deal was questioned. The officers who abetted and benefited from the scams instead of facing disciplinary action after a new government came to power in 2014, were rewarded with top postings and post-retirement sinecures instead”.
Empanelment at the level of Additional Secretary is done with the approval of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) on the basis of recommendations of the Special Committee of Secretaries (SCoS). The SCoS is assisted by an experts panel in evaluating the overall profile and suitability of officers.
The SCoS, held a meeting on September 21, and decided and noted that one of the criteria for consideration for empanelment at Additional Secretary level is that the officer should have worked on central deputation for a minimum period of three years at the level of Deputy Secretary and above.
“Further, in April, 2016, the Competent Authority had approved that the officers who have not completed one year of central deputation but are currently serving at the Centre may be considered for empanelment along with next batch. Accordingly, the officers who have not completed one year of central deputation but are serving at the Centre are being considered for empanelment with next batch and those serving at the Centre for more than a year are being considered for empanelment with their batch. The Committee observed that Shri Khemka has “Nil” central experience as he has never worked on central deputation,” the SCoS noted.
“After detailed deliberations and taking into account the eligibility criteria for empanelment for holding Additional Secretary level posts at the Centre, the Committee felt that since Shri Khemka has “Nil” central experience at Deputy Secretary and above level even till date, he does not meet the eligibility criteria prescribed for empanelment for holding Additional Secretary level posts at the Centre and, therefore, does not qualify for being considered for empanelment at Additional Secretary level,” the committee further ruled.
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