Saturday, September 18, 2010



From Our Delhi Bureau

NEW DELHI: A Right to Information (RTI) application has brought to light how the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is taking decisions in the name of the PM even without showing him the files and an obliging Dr Manmohan Singh gives the post facto approval without raising questions.

It shows how the Prime Minister has relegated his authority of appointments to his Minister of State Prithviraj Chavan to run the show with the help of the PMO officials. 

In the instant case, he signed the approval on June 19, 2009, more than three months after approval of appointment of four members to the National Commission for the Protection of Child Right given by the Minister of State in PMO and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister on March 2.

He was not even consulted before granting the approval. When then Minister of State for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury wrote to the PMO on March 2, 2009 for the PM's approval of the appointments, Sanjay Mitra, Joint Secretary to PM, wrote on the same letter:
"Above proposal may kindly be approved. PM's approval will be taken later on file."

Interestingly, the PM's principal secretary and MoS (PMO) granted approval on the same day and a section officer in PMO, Uttam Chand, rushed back the file to the ministry on the same day in the evening. 

The hurry was to beat the impending notification for the parliamentary elections as appointments cannot be made once the elections are announced. The elections were, however, announced in the afternoon and hence the ministry's section officer Azizuddin wrote on the file that the file was received (from PMO) after the elections were announced "and the Model Code of conduct has come into force with immediate effect."

He, therefore, sought directions stating: "Before notifying the appointments, we may perhaps have to seek clearance from the Election Commission of India. This would also require the concurrence of the nominated members." Minister Renuka Chowdhury agreed with the remark the next day that action as suggested would have to be taken before the appointments can be notified.

The same Joint Secretary Sanjay Mitra put up a note on June 19, 2009 for the PM's post facto "formal ratification" of the appointments approved by MoS (PMO), stating that "MoS(PMO) has already discussed these proposals with the PM. MoS Prithviraj Chavan noted on the file: "This was discussed. May like to confirm." Dr Manmohan Singh signed it confirming the approval." The same note also sought ratification of appointment of two members of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) by the MoS (PMO) on February 27, 2009.

Raaj Mangal Prasad and Ms Sonam Gulati of Delhi who dug out this information through an application filed under the RTI Act say it only shows that the appointments to two important commissions were made keeping the PM in the dark. They said it raises a vital question as to what are the matters in which the PM is kept in the dark and officials and MoS(PMO) virtually run the country on behalf of the PM. "What exactly is the role of the PMO and PM while granting such approvals," they asked.

Interestingly, Renuka Chowdhury lost the election and Krishna Teerath, elected from Delhi, became the new minister, who did not appoint four people as members despite her predecessor securing the PMO's approval. She found them unfit, no matter that the PMO and subsequently the PM had himself found them fit for the job.

Since the speed with which the file was cleared within hours only shows that the PMO did not examine the suitability of the candidates for the posts and did not add any value to the whole process as public expects in clearing names of persons to sit on the commission that is supposed to protect the rights of the under privileged children in the country.

Those cleared by the PMO but not appointed were: Dr (Mrs) Charu Wali Khanna, Mrs Seema Sadiq, Ajay Siwach and Prof. M Sreedhara Murthy.


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