New Delhi: In an unprecedented move, former Central Board of Direct Taxes Chairman P.C. Mody was appointed the new secretary-general (SG) of Rajya Sabha Friday, cutting short the tenure of the incumbent SG, P.P.K. Ramacharyulu, who had been appointed a little over two months ago.
Ramacharyulu was considered close to Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu. Naidu, who as the Rajya Sabha (RS) chairman is the appointing authority for the post of SG, signed the order of Mody’s appointment Friday.
The position of SG is a crucial one in the Parliamentary system. According to the Rajya Sabha website, the SG is the parliamentary adviser to the RS chairman and through him to the House. The SG is also the administrative head of the RS Secretariat and overall in-charge of all administrative and executive functions on behalf of, and in the name of, the Chairman.
ThePrint reached I.V. Subba Rao, secretary to Vice-President Naidu over phone, text, and WhatsApp messages for comment, but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.
Mody first IRS officer to be appointed Rajya Sabha SG
Mody is the first Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer who has been appointed to the post of SG. Unlike in the Lok Sabha, till date, the SG’s post in RS has always been held either by retired IAS officers of the rank of secretary or retired law officers. In the Lok Sabha, since its inception, three LS Secretariat officials have been elevated to the post of SG.
A retired IRS officer of the 1982 batch, Mody has been appointed till 10 August 2022 in the rank and status of cabinet secretary. He has almost 40 years of experience in handling various posts in the Government of India, including that of CBDT chairman. As Member (Investigation), CBDT, he has also supervised the functioning of the investigation wing of the Income Tax Department spread throughout the country.
The incumbent SG, Ramacharyulu has been appointed as advisor in the RS Secretariat. He was the first RS Secretariat insider who rose through the ranks to be appointed the SG on 1 September. He started his career as an assistant (a rank, which is below section officer in government).
Ramacharyulu was appointed after the then incumbent SG, Desh Deepak Verma, failed to get an extension after his fourth term as SG ended.
However, Ramacharyulu’s stint as SG has not been the shortest. Former IAS officer S.S. Sohoni was appointed SG for two months seven days between 25 July 1997 and 2 October 1997. Ramacharyulu’s tenure exceeds his by a few days.
Why incumbent SG’s removal, Mody appointment raised eyebrows
Vivek Agnihotri, former RS SG told ThePrint that there are no recruitment rules for appointing SG to LS or RS. “It is completely the discretion of the Speaker, in the case of Lok Sabha and Chairman in the case of Rajya Sabha, to appoint whoever they think are suitable for the post.”
But still, Mody’s appointment, coming 10 months before Naidu’s term as Vice-President ends, has surprised many in Parliament corridors.
Agnihotri said what was unique in this case was the way Ramacharyulu was removed just two months after he was appointed and that too towards the very end of Naidu’s term as VP.
“SG’s appointments are generally co-terminus with the VP’s term in office. I don’t know if his appointment in September was a temporary arrangement or if he was changed because something happened,” he said.
A senior Parliament official, who did not want to be named, said,“Ramacharyulu was considered close to Naidu and was appointed by him in September. He is well adept with parliamentary norms and procedures, after having worked in the RS Secretariat for 39 years. Removing him after just over two months is very humiliating.”
Another senior Parliament official, who did not want to be named said, “It could be that the direction was to appoint Ramacharyulu as the officiating SG. But the appointment order issued on 1 September did not specify this.”
Former LS secretary-general Subhash C. Kashyap said that the convention is that the Speaker or the Chairman consults the Prime Minister, Leader of the House, and Leader of Opposition of the respective Houses before appointing a suitable candidate.
He added that appointing central government bureaucrats to SG’s post is not new. “Former IAS officers have been appointed in the past too. IAS or IRS officials are not expected to be familiar with parliamentary conventions and rules. But then it’s the discretion of the chairman to appoint the SG. If he thinks a particular person is suitable, it is for him to decide.”
Kashyap said that right from the 1950’s till the early 1990s, the convention was not to appoint IAS or central government officers to the SG’s post. “But since the 1990s, many retired IAS officers have been regularly appointed to the post,” he said.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)