January 29, 2021 1:22:40 am
To rehabilitate retiring IAS officers, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government has reduced Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) in the state to a post-retirement sinecure.
Just as rules make it clear that any “expert” with 20 years of professional experience in the fields of urban development, housing, real estate and infrastructure development is eligible to apply for the RERA chief’s post, the state government, which is in the process of appointing a new chairperson, has chosen to restrict the competition to just four Maharashtra cadre IAS officers — two serving and two retired — by opting against issuing an advertisement to fill up the post.
Dr Vijay Satbir Singh, a sitting RERA member, is currently discharging the RERA chairperson’s role in additional capacity, after the tenure of Gautam Chatterjee, Maharashtra’s first RERA chief, expired on January 20.
Senior government officials told The Indian Express that the process of appointing Chatterjee’s successor was initiated last month, and that the names of four aspirants had already been referred to the selection committee formed for the appointment.
The committee, headed by Justice SS Shinde of the Bombay High Court, also consists of secretaries from the housing and law department.
While the practice is to issue a public advertisement inviting applications from all eligible persons for such regulatory positions, senior officials said this norm had been bypassed this time.
Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar, who will retire at the end of next month, and Chief Minister’s Principal Adviser Ajoy Mehta, a former chief secretary, have both applied for the key post. Both belong to the 1984 batch of IAS officers. Kshatrapati Shivaji of the 1986 batch, who is on central deputation but scheduled to retire this March, has also thrown his hat in the ring. His batch mate, Bipin Mallick, who retired last year, is also in the race.
While Satish Gavai, chairperson of Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) and another retired IAS officer, had also evinced interest in the position, sources said his application was submitted after the four names were referred to the committee. There are also questions over whether an MPSC chairperson is eligible for the post, with provisions in the Constitution prohibiting “the chairman of a state public commission to hold any office under the state or central government after ceasing office, barring membership to the Union Public Service Commission”.
According to Maharashtra Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, the chairperson of RERA has to be appointed by the government “on the recommendations of the selection committee from amongst persons having adequate knowledge and professional expertise of at least 20 years in urban development, housing, real estate development, infrastructure, economics and technical expertise in other relevant fields including planning, law, commerce, accountancy, industry, management, social service and public affairs or administration”.
Asked why the post had not been advertised for, a senior government official, requesting anonymity, said they had been advised not to do so.
Sources also said while four aspirants were in the race, the actual contest was between Sanjay Kumar and Mehta. Both have also applied for the chairperson’s post of Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission, which is also falling vacant. This post, however, has been advertised.
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