Plea for IAS list hits GTA Act wall

The Telegraph

VIVEK CHHETRI

Darjeeling, April 2: The GTA Act doesn’t provide for any provision which states that a “panel” shall be sent to the chief executive of the autonomous authority to choose the principal secretary, casting a cloud on the hill body’s request for a list of five names to choose its top bureaucrat.

The GTA Sabha had yesterday asked the state government to submit a list of at least five IAS officers’ names to pick the principal secretary.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha that runs the hill body cited a clause in the MoA that speaks of a “panel” to justify its demand. The request was made in response to the state government’s proposal that Jalpaiguri divisional commissioner A.K. Singh be appointed as the principal secretary.

Section 13 of the agreement states: “There shall be a Principal Secretary of the GTA, who shall be of the rank of the Principal Secretary/Secretary to the State Government and who shall be selected by the Chief Executive from the panel sent by the State Government and shall be paid from the GTA Fund such salaries and allowances as may be fixed by the State Government.”

The MoA was signed by the Morcha, Centre and the state government. The state proposed A.K. Singh’s name after the GTA Sabha had objected to the continuation of Darjeeling district magistrate Saumitra Mohan as the principal secretary, saying he was not senior enough to hold the post.

However, the GTA Act, which was published in the Calcutta gazette notification on March 15, 2012, does not have provisions for providing a panel to the GTA chief executive. It merely states that the GTA chief executive would be consulted on the appointment of the principal secretary.

Chapter IV, Section 51 of the GTA Act states: “There shall be a principal secretary to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (herein referred to as the Principal Secretary), not below the rank of secretary or Commissioner to the State Government, appointed by the State government in consultation with the Chief Executive.”

A senior administrative official, who is not associated with the GTA, and therefore his views can be considered neutral, said the GTA Act had to be followed and not the MoA. “The GTA Act is the reigning document now, not the agreement. Therefore, the state government is not bound to send the GTA a list of five IAS officers as demanded (by the Morcha),” said the official on condition of anonymity.

Jyoti Kumar Rai, a GTA executive Sabha member, admitted the discrepancy between the Act and the MoA. “We will still stick to our demand that at least five IAS officers’ names must be provided to us. There are discrepancies between the Act and the MoA and this is an error on the part of the state government,” he said.

Rai, who is also the assistant secretary of the Morcha, added: “Even in the Act, it is clearly stated that the chief executive will be consulted. Providing one name is not consultation but an imposition on the chief executive,” said Rai.

Observers believe the anomaly in the Act might set off another round of confrontation between the state government and the Morcha leadership. “This discrepancy might once again start a tug-of-war and a clash of egos between the government and Morcha leaders,” said an observer.

The Morcha said the party had already taken note that the Act deviated from what had been mentioned in the MoA. “We are taking note of such discrepancies and we will ask for an amendment to the Act,” said Rai.

The draft of the Act was placed in the Assembly on September 2, 2011, and it was changed 22 times before it was passed and published in the gazette.

Binay Tamang, an executive member of the GTA, said a writ petition filed by the GTA against the state government in the high court on March 15 had also challenged such discrepancies.

“The discrepancy in the MoA and the Act, like the omission of the word ‘panel’, is being challenged in court,” said Tamang. The petition was against granting powers of the executive officer of the GTA to Mohan.

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