Even while the appointment of the interim director of CBI has raised questions on whether rules were followed and recommendations of a committee headed by the Chief Vigilance Commissioner were considered, a similar appointment case has been lying buried in files for more than a year.
The appointment of the Director General (DG) of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Alka Panda, too, was allegedly made without CVC clearance and in violation of Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) orders.
As per DoPT orders, in cases of serving officers in the Central Government, vigilance clearance has to be obtained from the concerned ministry and comments of the CVC are also mandatory. In this case, no clearance was sought either from the concerned ministry ~ Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution ~ or the CVC.
Incidentally, the matter was brought to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Member of Parliament Udit Raj in a letter dated 18 June 2016. The letter mentioned that in 2013 the then Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution K V Thomas had ordered a probe by the CVC into various alleged lapses by Alka Panda who was serving as Additional Director General of BIS then. Dr Raj’s letter said the then DG of BIS had forwarded an investigation report, related to delay in timely upward revision of marking fee in respect of 588 products under Certification Marks Scheme of BIS, to the secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, intimating that the report shows that a loss of more than Rs 4 crore was caused to BIS by way of lesser collection of marking fee. Based on this investigation, the then DG had initiated major penalty proceedings against D K Nayyar, Scientist G, BIS, who was also named in the investigation, and had written to the secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs for a CVC probe into the antecedents of Alka Panda on proven charges of falsification of official records.
Dr Raj’s letter said the instructions of former minister K V Thomas were not placed before the competent authority before ordering her appointment as DG and therefore the advice of the CVC should be obtained immediately. The letter added that the cadre controlling authority should initiate appropriate disciplinary proceedings against Alka Panda.
The matter was also raised in Parliament by Udit Raj in July. He wrote similar letters to the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan, who is also the ex-officio president of BIS on 25 March and 8 June this year.
The Statesman tried to speak to Ms Panda on telephone but she said she was busy at a function. Subsequently, a questionnaire was e-mailed to her on her official email ID but after 48 hours there has been no response.
Ms Panda also issued more than 200 transfer orders after she took over as DG in July last year. Dr Raj wrote to her on 24 September 2015 and 13 January 2016 asking how many of these transferred employees belong to the SC/ST category and seeking details of the transfer policy applicable to both cadre and non-cadre officers and staff. After failing to receive appropriate replies, Dr Raj then wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, requesting action be taken against Panda for breach of protocol of Members of Parliament as per DoPT’s orders for not acknowledging or providing requested details.
Dr Raj told The Statesman: “When there is proven misconduct of Rs 4 crore resulting in loss to exchequer then why has no action been taken? There is a note from former minister ordering that the issue be placed before the CVC as they are the competent authority to decide issues related to All India Services (AIS).
“I have personally brought this issue to the attention of the Prime Minister, who also heads the Department of Personnel and Training, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Minister of Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan stating that they intervene in the interest of about 240 harassed employees, many of whom belong to SC/ST communities,” he said.
Interestingly, after the inexplicable transfer of 89 BIS officers, the Ministry issued an order to the DG on 13 May 2016, a copy of which is with The Statesman, asking her to cancel the transfers and follow the due process laid down in the placement policy. However, the order has not been followed yet, despite these being binding in nature under Section 24 (2) of the BIS Act 1986. The ministry has so far not taken any action for non-compliance of its order.