SC verdict a golden chance to improve govt machinery   (03 Jul 2000)

The Supreme Court verdict on Ramesh Chandra Acharyas case on June 27 must be lauded as it has provided a wide-ranging scope to bring efficiency into the government machinery. Acharya, a judicial officer in Orissa, challenged his retirement at the age of 58. The apex court said that continuation in service beyond 58 was permissible only if the high court makes a positive recommendation about the officer.

Keeping in view the apex court directive, the government of India and all state governments must promptly devise a system to assess the performance of government employees. An SC bench, comprising senior judges, directed that a periodic review and evaluation of the utility of government employees is required for better administration and for removal of deadwood or of persons of doubtful integrity and reputation.

The SC has virtually provided a lever for the government to swing into action. If the government does not live up to its expectations and act quickly, it will lose a golden opportunity to improve official machinery performance. Today, the Central government and state governments are reeling under the effects of incompetence, inefficiency and corruption. Many employees are callous, corrupt and highly incompetent. They continue in service because of old rules and backing from trade unions. No administrative reform can be implemented due to resistance from employees unions and officers associations. Many projects are delayed and files gather dust for years because of inefficient government employees. Whichever government comes to power, nothing changes.

The people are fed up with all political parties for non-performance. In fact, governments come and go, but the employees are the same. Unless inefficient employees are thrown out, no government can perform.

The SC has clearly stated that the authorities must consider: “Have we not reached a stage where services of government and semi-government employees should be regulated so that only those who can render useful services be continued and not the indolent, infirm and those of doubtful integration, reputation or utility? There can be no right of an employee to continue in service de hors, statutory or administrative rules prescribing the superanuation age and continuation in service could be only subject to conditions provided.” The court has further said that the competent authority can frame rules permitting it to assess the overall performance of an official periodically to find out whether he has the potential for continued utility in service.

The SC has given powers to the government to weed out inefficient, incompetent and corrupt officials. Eighty per cent government employees are good, hardworking and by and large okay in terms of integrity. The remaining rotten ones bring a bad name to all government employees. In a bid to identify such officials, the Central government and state governments should form groups at all levels and then take action against them.

Cabinet Secretary Prabhat Kumar, considered one of the most competent bureaucrats, with an impeccable track record, should implement the SC verdict. He should form a taskforce and write to all chief secretaries to form similar taskforces at various levels, to identify inefficient and corrupt officials. The government has not yet reacted to the SC judgment, but one hopes it is planning some action.

In fact, the judgment should be implemented in the private sector too, sensing the intention of the honourable judges. If managements in that sector are also allowed to weed out inefficient employees, we will not require an exit policy, part of planned labour reforms.