A showdown has broken out at the top of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), with the battle between its chairperson and member secretary currently playing out in court.
The commission, headed by retired IAS officer Stuti Kacker, had passed a resolution in February recommending that member secretary Asheem Srivastav be either transferred or repatriated to his parent cadre; it cited “obstructionist” attitude and “misbehaviour”. For his part, Srivastav has taken the commission and chairperson Kacker to Delhi High Court, questioning their authority to pass the resolution against a government appointee while also levelling allegations of financial malpractices and bias towards certain NGOs.
The high court passed a recent order noting that “the working of the commission would suffer if both continue in their posts”. Justice Manmohan has restrained Kacker from writing Srivastav’s annual confidential report for the year 2015-16 until further orders. Also, the court has said Srivastav need not go to the commission until his repatriation and that he should be treated as being on paid leave.
Justice Manmohan said the government should at first process Srivastav’s application of repatriation to his parent cadre. Srivastav had asked the government for repatriation to his cadre state (Gujarat), stating he is “demoralised, distraught and frustrated” in the NCPCR with Kacker at the helm.
The court has also sought replies from the NCPCR to specific instances cited by Srivastav to back up his allegations of irregularities and bias. It has directed the government to file a counter-affidavit explaining what steps it took after Srivastav wrote in February to the secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, seeking an inquiry into the affairs of the NCPCR, particularly into financial grants made in alleged violation of norms. The hearing has been adjourned to August.
The Indian Express sent a questionnaire to Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, seeking her response to the showdown. The e-mail response from her office stated that a decision has been taken to send Srivastav back to his parent cadre and action has been taken pursuant to the letters received from the NCPCR.
“Chairperson, NCPCR has been working to correct the system ever since she joined the Commission. Necessary inquires are being carried to look into the cases of financial misappropriation which have been reported,” it added.
Srivastav, however, said it was because the ministry had not paid heed to his complaint that he was compelled to move the high court. “Now that I have gone to the court, I would make my earnest efforts to see at least some wrongs are corrected. I will try to take my battle to a logical end,” he said.
Srivastav, a Gujarat-cadre Indian Forest Service officer, had been member secretary in NCPCR since October 2012. Kacker was appointed chairperson in September last year.
This was after the Supreme Court had come down repeatedly on the government over the issue of appointments in the commission. In 2014, a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur had restrained the government from making fresh appointments for want of selection guidelines and asked it to issue public ads to fill posts. “… The appointments sought to be made have statutory flavour, and those appointed are remunerated out of the public exchequer… Receiving applications only from candidates recommended by ministers, MPs and other functionaries may not be right… it may have the effect of rendering the selection process suspect,” it had said. The order led to the government amending the rules for appointments.
Subsequently, in February 2015, the Supreme Court directed the government to appoint a new chairperson and members within a month but the latter missed three deadlines, prompting the social justice bench to even impose a cost of Rs 25,000 in September.
Later that month, the government notified the appointment of Kacker as NCPCR chairperson.