Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Apex Court questions appointment of pilot Shashank Shekhar as UP cabinet secretary

THE Supreme Court’s questioning of the appointment of a non-IAS, Shashank Shekhar Singh, as cabinet secretary of Uttar Pradesh will make IAS officers across the country happy and cheerful. The Apex Court, hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging Singh’s appointment, said there have to be rules and regulations for such key postings.
A close confidante of UP chief minister Mayawati and former pilot who had flown a number of CMs including VP Singh and ND Tiwari, Shashank Shekhar Singh holds a unique post called cabinet secretary and enjoys the rank of a cabinet minister. Singh was appointed in the coveted post soon after Mayawati came into power almost five years ago. Though the state government in an order placed the post of the cabinet secretary at par with the state chief secretary who is always an IAS officer, cabinet secretary Singh in all practical purposes wields more power than the state chief secretary. Singh was to retire in May 2010, but Mayawati gave him a two-year extension.
Shashank Shekhar Singh, however, is not a new player in Lucknow’s corridors of power. In 1979, he became a state pilot but was soon promoted as director of state civil aviation. Later, he moved up the ladder to become principal secretary to CM for several CMs. According to the insiders in Mayawati government, Singh virtually runs the state government and the chief secretary is a mere subordinate in all practical purposes.
After the PIL was taken up by the Apex Court, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) which is the cadre-controlling authority of the IAS, said in an affidavit on Monday that the appointment “undermined” the established system and “demoralized” the IAS officers of the state. A bench hearing the case said people like Sam Pitroda, who are an expert in the technical field, are appointed as adviser but for posts like that of cabinet secretary, there have to be proper procedures.
The case turned out to be a high-profile one as the PIL petitioners, Harish Chandra Pandey and Amrendra Nath Tripathi, were represented by noted advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Gopal Subramanium, who quit the post of Solicitor General of India rather unceremoniously a few months ago, represented Shashank Shekhar Singh. 
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