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Friday, February 28, 2014

Terms of Reference of the Seventh Central Pay Commission approved by the Cabinet

Terms of Reference of 7th Central Pay Commission have been approved by the Cabinet and are as follows:

a)      To examine, review, evolve and recommend changes that are desirable and feasible regarding the principles that should govern the emoluments structure including pay, allowances and other facilities/benefits, in cash or kind, having regard to rationalization and simplification therein as well as the specialized needs of various Departments, agencies and services, in respect of the following categories of employees:-

Central Government employees-industrial and non-industrial;

Personnel belonging to the All India Services;

Personnel of the Union Territories;

Officers  and   employees   of  the   Indian  Audit  and   Accounts Department;

Members of regulatory bodies (excluding the Reserve Bank of India) set up under Acts of Parliament; and

Officers and employees of the Supreme Court.

b)      To examine, review, evolve and recommend changes that are desirable and feasible regarding principles that should govern the emoluments structure, concessions and facilities/benefits, in cash or kind, as well as retirement benefits of personnel belonging to the Defence Forces, having regard to historical and traditional parities, with due emphasis on aspects unique to these personnel.

 c)      To work out the framework for an emoluments structure linked with the need to attract the most suitable talent to Government service, promote efficiency, accountability and responsibility in the work culture, and foster excellence in the public governance system to respond to complex challenges of modern administration and rapid political, social, economic and technological changes, with due regard to expectations of stakeholders, and to recommend appropriate training and capacity building through a competency based framework.

d)     To examine the existing schemes of payment of bonus, keeping in view, among other things, its bearing upon performance and productivity and make recommendations on the general principles, financial parameters and conditions for an appropriate incentive scheme to reward excellence in productivity, performance and integrity.

e)      To review the variety of existing    allowances presently available to employees in addition to pay and suggest their rationalization and simplification, with a view to ensuring that the pay structure is so designed as to take these into account.

f)      To examine the principles which should govern the structure of pension and other retirement benefits, including revision of pension in the case of employees who have retired prior to the date of effect of these recommendations, keeping in view that retirement benefits of all Central Government employees appointed on and after 01.01.2004 are covered by the New Pension Scheme (NPS).

 g)      To make recommendations on the above, keeping in view:

 (i)   the economic conditions in the country  and need for fiscal prudence;

(ii) the need to ensure that adequate resources are available for developmental expenditures and welfare measures;

(iii) the likely impact of the recommendations on the finances of the State Governments, which usually adopt the recommendations with some modifications;

(iv) the prevailing emolument structure and retirement benefits available to employees of Central Public Sector Undertakings; and

(v) the best global practices and their adaptability and relevance in Indian conditions.

 h)      To recommend the date of effect of its recommendations on all the above.

The Commission will make its recommendations within 18 months of the date of its constitution.  It may consider, if necessary, sending interim reports on any of the matters as and when the recommendations are finalised.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Two book releases in the near future that deserve our attention

I would like to introduce the readers of our blog to two books which are soon to be released.

The Avatari: The book is being published by Hachette and being marketed as ‘The Adventure Thriller of the Year’. Authored by a serving Army Officer, Col Raghu Srinivasan, the book can be pre-ordered online at a discount from Amazon by clicking this link. A description of the book as reflected @ Amazon, is as follows:

A Mythical Kingdom: Legend has it that only those chosen by destiny can gain entry into Shambhala, the mythical kingdom believed to hold the ancient wisdom that humanity will need to resurrect itself from the inevitable apocalypse. They are the Avatari.

An Ancient Artefact: When Henry Ashton, a retired British Army officer settled in the Yorkshire dales, receives a letter from a monk entreating him to prevent a 'hidden treasure' stolen from a Laotian monastery from being misused, he finds himself honor-bound to respond. Assisted by a retired Gurkha Sergeant, a high-strung mathematician from Oxford with a Shambhala fixation of her own and an American mercenary on the CIA's hit list, Ashton's mission leads to an ancient map that dates back to the time of the great Mongol, Kublai Khan.

A Secret that Must Not be Revealed: The group follows the trail, risking the perils of the inhospitable deserts of Ladakh, turmoil in Pakistan and the rugged mountains of Northern Afghanistan, where the Afghan War is at its height. But they are up against a deadly adversary with seemingly unlimited resources, who will stop at nothing to get possession of the ancient secret – a secret that, if revealed, could threaten the very fabric of human civilization

Beyond NJ 9842– The Siachen Saga : Authored by well known defence journalist, Mr Nitin Gokhale, the book is a tribute to the Indian soldiers who have served at the Glacier. And 2014 also marks the 30th Anniversary of Operation Meghdoot. Details of the book and the process of pre-ordering the same at a discount can be perused by clicking here.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Totally farcical and eyewash of a Bill introduced in Rajya Sabha to address concerns regarding functioning of Tribunals

As expected and discussed on the blog earlier, THE TRIBUNALS, APPELLATE TRIBUNALS AND OTHER AUTHORITIES (CONDITIONS OF SERVICE) BILL, 2014, has been moved in the Rajya Sabha, ostensibly to implement various judgements rendered by Courts to streamline the functioning of Tribunals.

But what this Bill does proposes is just the opposite of what Constitutional Courts, including Constitution Benches of the Supreme Court, have ruled.

The greatest fright in India in this regard has been the lack of independence of Tribunals since these are functioning under parent administrative ministries, including those very ministries against which these Tribunals are expected to pass orders. Constitutional courts have already directed that it is the Department of Justice under the Ministry of Law and Justice which should look after the functioning of Tribunals, a direction which the Government has incorrigibly not implemented till date.

Another issue that had been engaging the attention of Courts was the fact that there was huge variance in terms and conditions of Chairpersons and Members of different Tribunals and this was also an issue being looked into by the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No 120 of 2012 titled Rajiv Garg Vs Union of India.

To tide over the strong observations of the Supreme Court in Rajiv Garg’s case, which remains pending, the aforesaid Bill has been moved, and the same can be accessed by clicking here.

However a bare perusal of the Bill would show that the same has been drafted and introduced as a merely formality, and though it talks of universalisation of service conditions, it does not, in any manner, even touch upon the issue of independence of Tribunals, and in fact goes against the very spirit of the judgements of Courts related to independence of Tribunals and also against the grain of the concept of independence of judicial institutions as enshrined in our Constitution.

The following parts of the Bill may be perused meticulously and carefully:

Section 4 provides for the system of re-appointment of members after culmination of their initial term, making them again susceptible to the ‘carrot syndrome’.

Section 7 provides that in case a Member of a Tribunal is faced with unfinished arbitration work at the time of appointment to the Tribunal that he may have taken up, the ‘Central Government’ may permit him/her to finish the same. Of course, the term ‘Central Government’ in practical terms means the Secretary of the said department.

Section 20 provides that the leave sanctioning authority for the Chairperson for all kinds of leave would be the Minister of the concerned Ministry and so would he/she be for the foreign travel of all other Members. The Members are hence expected to seek leave of the Minister of that very Ministry against which they are supposed to pass orders and directions.

The financial memorandum under the Bill reinforces and underlines the fact that the Tribunals shall remain under the administrative control of parent ministries, which of course is in teeth of the judgement of the Supreme Court in R Gandhi’s case and of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in Navdeep Singh Vs Union of India.

The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, signed by Kapil Sibal, also misleadingly states that the Bill addresses the issues related to Tribunals that have arisen in various cases before the judiciary. This again is factually incorrect since the most basic dicta of the Courts, that is, the independence of Tribunals from parent ministries, remains unaddressed and untouched, and in fact defeated.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Defence Minister withdraws controversial circular ordaining en masse litigation against military veterans

This is in reference to the post of 12 January 2014 in which it had been pointed out that the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had issued a letter ordaining en masse appeals in the Supreme Court against judicial verdicts rendered by Courts in favour of military veterans without seeking legal opinion on individual cases. The MoD had also officially admitted that it had filed appeals against disabled soldiers in the Supreme Court in ‘almost all types of cases’.

Mr Rajeev Chandrasekhar of Bangalore, Member of Parliament, had consequently taken up the issue with Mr AK Antony through a letter endorsed on 18 January 2014 followed by another one on 28 January 2014. Now the Raksha Mantri has informed Mr Chandrasekhar that the controversial circular is being withdrawn.

The defence of Mr Antony (though I am sure not his own, but of one of the Under Secretaries of the DESW) in the said matter is interesting. He says that the letter had been issued to simplify decision-making.

Mr Antony, decision-making on what? Of filing ruthless appeals against your own disabled veterans? You wanted to simplify the process of unleashing legal terror on the defenders of your own nation?

Though the circular stands withdrawn, it would be otiose to expect any positive change on ground.

The sadism shall continue unabated till the time the higher bureaucracy and the political executive apply their minds properly to the problems at hand without blindly affixing initials on noting sheets put up from below. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Cabinet decision towards implementation of judgements related to freeing of Tribunals from control of the Executive. A superficial step, but a step nevertheless!

As most readers would know, we have been emphasizing on the independence of judicial functioning of various Tribunals existing in India. Some posts on the subject can be accessed here, here, here and here.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in R Gandhi’s case had passed detailed directions related to functioning of Tribunals and ensuring that they are not placed under any administrative or parent ministry. This was followed by a judgement by the Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by me wherein it was directed that the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) must be placed under the purview of the Department of Justice under the Ministry of Law & Justice and not under the Ministry of Defence.

Another Writ Petition was recently filed by the majorly public-oriented Madras Bar Association against the newly notified Company Law and Company Law Appellate Tribunals which have been placed under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs rather than the Law Ministry. The Supreme Court has been pleased to record the statement of the Government in its interim order that no appointments shall be made in the said Tribunals till further orders.

The Ministry of Law and Justice has in fact been trying to tame this issue since long, but other Ministries have been resisting the move and seeking to wield control over Tribunals which clearly goes to show their interest in emasculating independence of these bodies. In fact, the Government has till date not realised that implementation of judgements of Constitutional Courts in this regard is not subject to opinions of various Ministries. The issue has been ignored since long, and illegally and contemptuously so, as is evident from this press report of the year 2001 and this official press release issued way back in the year 2004.

Now, two days back, on 30 Jan 2014, the Union Cabinet has finally given the approval to recommendations of a Group of Ministry on various Tribunals. However, the move falls short of expectations since though it talks of introducing an over-arching legislation for prospective universalisation of tenure, pay & allowances, appointments, retirement, facilities etc of Members of Tribunals, it does not apparently touch upon the biggest quandary in the concept of Tribunalisation, and that is, the control of administrative and parent ministries over them. For example, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has to pass all orders against the Ministry of Defence which is the opposite party for all military litigants but the AFT is functioning under the same Ministry which not only controls its infrastructure and operation but also rule-making powers. Similarly, the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) functions under the Ministry of Finance and even under the patronage of banks. Though the cabinet approval needs to be perused in totality to analyse its finer aspects, the first impression does portray that only the surface has been scratched without ensuring the actual independence of Tribunals.

A superficial step, but a step nevertheless, and perhaps in the right direction!

Long distance ahead, but we shall run and cover it.