Current General Studies Magazine: "Appointments as spoils of office" October 2016

Current General Studies Magazine (October 2016)

General Studies - II "Polity Based Article" (Appointments as spoils of office)

The Supreme Court’s observations on the quality of a round of appointments made to the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission last year expose the gross disrespect shown by the State government to the institutional integrity of the constitutional body. Standing by the Madras High Court judgment quashing the appointment of 11 members, the court has directed the State government to make a fresh selection of TNPSC members after a “meaningful and deliberative process”. These observations foreground the arbitrary manner in which administrative power is used to pack recruitment institutions with political favourites.

In the case of the TNPSC, the high court had noted that absolutely no process had preceded the appointments, including of a former district judge who had not been offered the two-year extension that is given on merit to district judges on their reaching the age of 58. The government has been specifically told that the retired judge would not be eligible in the fresh selection process. TNPSC vacancies were not filled for three years, but close to the Assembly election, chosen persons were asked to submit their bio-data and appointed within a day. The high court could not even go into the relevance of the material on the basis of which the Governor made the appointments, as there was no material bar candidates’ resumes.

The core issue, however, is not eligibility or non-eligibility. Some may be qualified by dint of their track record, educational qualifications or administrative experience. What is disquieting is that the appointment process has become a “spoils system” based on political patronage. The high court had noted that it was not even fair to comment on whether any candidate met the criteria of integrity, calibre and qualification as the process itself was deeply flawed. It had noted at least three instances of absence of process in selections to State public service commissions.

The concept of such commissions was incorporated in the Constitution with the idea that recruitment for public service would be truly independent and free from the pressure of the political executive. Going by the recent round of appointments, the Tamil Nadu government does not have a process, leave alone one that is free from arbitrariness. It needs to evolve a process for appointments to the TNPSC that will make integrity and calibre the principal qualifications, while also drawing upon a wider pool of talent than what the ruling party’s limited list of favourites has to offer.

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