Thursday, June 30, 2011

Goel Vs Chawla: A saga of post-retirement competition

IS THERE a seniority post retirement? After the government decided to name former finance secretary and 1973 batch retired IAS Ashok Chawla as the chairman of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), two CCI members HC Gupta and Anurag Goel are learnt to have expressed their discomfort as the appointment would let pass their seniority. Gupta and Goel are retired IAS officers of 1971 and 1972 batch respectively, and if Chawla is appointed as chairman, they have to report to a junior officer! The post of CCI chairman has been lying vacant since Dhanendra Kumar demitted office on completion of 65 years of age on June 5, 2011.
The issue has been highlighted by Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS who has argued that since the members are appointed post-retirement, the principle of seniority should cease to exist. Mehta himself was running for the chairmanship of the commission in 2005.
Here are the excerpts of an open letter written by Mehta to Anurag Goel.

“Dear Shri Goel,
With reference to the subject, I write this appeal to you as part of my duties under Article 51A of the Constitution of India (spirit of inquiry and reform so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour etc.) and as someone closely associated with the evolution of the competition regime and the institutions involved in promoting a healthy competition culture in India.
I believe that following the likely appointment of Shri Ashok Chawla as the new Chairman of CCI you may wish to resign as he is one batch behind you in the IAS…First of all, seniority is an issue when you or he were still in service and the same cannot be carried forward as a legacy forever, and particularly in post-retirement jobs such as at the CCI etc. Personally, while there are merits in the seniority system, I find the same repugnant, because it does not recognize merit.
However, this is not only my view but several others, who believe, that once you have retired from service, and sought appointment as a Member ardently, the seniority principle is exhausted. Having interacted with Shri Chawla for many years, I am confident that he will make an excellent skipper. I am aware that you were also a contender for the Chairmanship but the selection committee in its wisdom weighed in favour of Shri Chawla, as they did in your case when you sought the appointment as a Member.”

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