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Kerala High Court Issues Notice On Plea Alleging Lack Of Transparency in Recruitment Of Personal Staff of Ministers, Leader of Opposition, Chief Whip

Lydia Suzanne Thomas
9 April 2021 12:29 PM GMT
Kerala High Court Issues Notice On Plea Alleging Lack Of Transparency in Recruitment Of Personal Staff of Ministers, Leader of Opposition, Chief Whip
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The Kerala High Court today took up a PIL petition filed by an NGO against the lack of transparency in the recruitment/selection of appointment of persons be appointed to personal staff of Ministers, Leader of Opposition and Government Chief Whip forming part of Kerala Secretariat Service, Kerala Secretariat Subordinate Service and Kerala Last Grade Service without following any...

The Kerala High Court today took up a PIL petition filed by an NGO against the lack of transparency in the recruitment/selection of appointment of persons be appointed to personal staff of Ministers, Leader of Opposition and Government Chief Whip forming part of Kerala Secretariat Service, Kerala Secretariat Subordinate Service and Kerala Last Grade Service without following any transparent or legal recruitment/ selection process.

A Bench of Justices CT Ravikumar and Murali Purshothaman admitted the petition today, issuing notice to T. Velayudhan and CM Raveendran, personal staff in the office of the Chief Minister, who have been impleaded in "in representative capacity" for other personal staff. The Government Pleader and Standing Counsel for the State Public Services Commission PC Sasidharan took notice for the State and the Public Services Commission respectively. 

The petition seeks a declaration that appointments be made after calling for applications and with proper notification and selection process giving equal opportunity to all qualified.

The first petitioner, Anti-Corruption Peoples' Movement, challenges the lack of transparency in the selection process and alleges that appointments to personal staff are made on unguided and unbridled exercise of discretionary power by the Minister, Leader of Opposition, and Government Chief Whip.

The second and third petitioners, members of the 1st petitioner organisation describe themselves as personally aggrieved by the fact that opportunities which rightfully must be open to all are being filled without a proper procedure and without any process of law.

Additionally, it is the petitioners' case that huge amount of money is spent on such appointees as salary, gratuity and pension resulting in distribution of State Largesse without equality of opportunity and just procedure.

Arguing that the selection process without inviting applications is arbitrary, unjust, and discriminatory, the petition reads,

"When the power to select the candidates for appointment is conferred on any individual it must be presumed that the rule demands the said power to be exercised in fair, reasonable and just manner. It is submitted that any other interpretation of the rule would render it void and unconstitutional. An interpretation which would further the constitutionality of the rule ought to be adopted and all the guide lines necessary for exercise of the said power in a fair, just and transparent"

Referring the dictum in State of Karnataka v. Uma Devi, it is stated,

"Selection and appointments without following a proper procedure ought to be treated as null and void as inconsistent with the statutory provisions"

It is submitted that the appointment of personal staff for Ministers is governed by the Special Rules notified under proviso in 1959 to Article 309 of Constitution of India and originally provided for five categories of staff forming distinct categories in Kerala Secretariat Service and Kerala Secretariat Subordinate Service, with such appointment of personal staff limited to Ministers.

The rules made in 1959 under proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution of India continued to be in force by virtue of Section 3 of the Kerala Public Service Act, 1968. As per Kerala Public Service (Consultation) Regulations, 1957, Gazetted Officers in the said personal staff in State Service and members of personal staff in Subordinate Service are exempted from the purview of consultation with the 2nd respondent, the petition states.

It is further narrated that while things stood so by an amendment in 1972, provision was made for payment of gratuity to the members of the personal staff who are recruited directly. The service of those recruited directly is stipulated to be co-terminus with the tenure of the Minister, Leader of Opposition or Government Chief Whip as case may be.

Later, by way of amendment in 1994 provision was also made lor grant of pension to personal staff having service of at least three years. By virtue of proviso of rule 9(2), minimum pension is made available to personal staff with only 2 years and a day as service.

Despite the rules providing that recruitments to personal staff be made from among full members/approved probationers of Secretariat Service/ Secretariat Subordinate Service, this is hardly followed, the petitioners contend. Exercising the power to be exercised in "special cases" under proviso to rule 4, direct recruitments and reemployment are made in huge numbers, the petitioners contend.

Averring that the statutory power of selection conferred on the Ministers, Leader of Opposition and Government Chief Whip cannot be exercised in an arbitrary and opaque manner, the petitioner argues that the rules provide that the qualification for each category would be the same as provided for similar post in the Secretariat Service and Government Department.

Though the qualification can be relaxed in deserving case it is necessary to give full opportunity to all qualified for such selection, it is averred with an additional contention that the present system is based on the spoils system.

The petition states,

"It gives way to nepotism, corruption and malafide exercise of power."

An additional prayer is against the grant of pension to such appointees, who have served for a minimum of two years.

The petition will be taken up after the vacation on May 18.

CASE TITLE: Anti Corruption People's Movement and Ors. v. State of Kerala

COUNSEL FOR PETITIONER: Advocate Hariraj MR and other advocates of M/s M.R. Rajendran Nair and Associates, Samatha Law Chambers

Chambers, Kochi 682 018, and those to the respondents may be served

on their respective addresses

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