A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices TS Thakur, R Banumathi, and Uday Umesh Lalit, on August 2, dismissed a challenge to extension of tenure to a civil servant in 2010 for five years.
The challenge was on the ground that the civil servant did not get the mandatory clearance from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), before the Government granted her extension of tenure for five years.
The SC/ST Employees Welfare Association of Educational Consultants India Ltd first filed the writ petition in the Delhi high court seeking quashing of order dated November 29, 2010 of the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, granting extension of tenure to Anju Banerjee as Chairperson-cum-Managing Director of EdCIL (India) Ltd.
The Delhi high court, through its judgment written by Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, dismissed the writ petition, on December 7, 2011.
The Supreme Court dismissed the petitioner’s appeal against this judgment, seven months after her extended tenure expired on November 28, 2015.
Prashant Bhushan appeared for the appellant in the Supreme Court. The Solicitor General, Ranjit Kumar appeared for the UOI. Although the extension of tenure was granted by the previous UPA Government, through the Public Enterprises Selection Board, the present Government defended it.
The CVC, which is also a respondent in the case, did not give a direct answer to both the high court and the Supreme Court whether its clearance is mandatory for the extension of tenure of the official.
The CVC had brought to the knowledge of the HRD Ministry a series of complaints against Banerjee, including repeated complaints made under Whistleblower’s Act, from a Deputy Manager of EdCIL levelling allegations of harassment, of irregularities in promotions/appointments etc. The CVC also pointed out that the Ministry was aware that some of the allegations had been found on investigation, to be prima facie true.
The CVC told both the high court and the Supreme Court that it had no role in the matter, beyond communicating these allegations to the Ministry.
However, its circular dated 12.7.1999 clearly states that vigilance clearance must be obtained from the Commission in respect of all candidates/offices recommended by the PESB for appointment to any Board level position in PSEs.
The Government claimed that the allegations were found to be baseless by a committee of two senior officials of the Department and that it was only after that the extension of tenure was granted.
After going through the entire sequence of events, the Supreme Court bench said that it found nothing wrong in the decision making process in the matter; nor did it find any infraction in securing and acting in terms of the comments of CVC.
Observers note that the judgment in the case has only highlighted the growing irrelevance of the institution of CVC in dealing with complaints against senior civil servants.
Read the order here.