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Crucial Juncture

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Speaker Ritu Khanduri Bhushan’s decision to sack 228 Vidhan Sabha Secretariat employees after receiving the report of the inquiry commission that investigated allegations of illegal appointments during the tenures of earlier Speakers indicates how seriously the issue is being taken by the current political dispensation. This is particularly so after the disclosures regarding UKSSSC’s dismal performance. That the irregularities have been committed during the tenures of Speakers hailing from both major parties in the state indicates how such practices have become the norm. The matter will, of course, ultimately be decided by the courts because those sacked are bound to mount a legal challenge. It has to be decided whether providing jobs in this manner to favoured people was technically within the powers of the Speakers. In the absence of established rules in this regard, can irregularities be alleged?

Whatever the decision of the courts, it is obvious that the Vidhan Sabha will have to establish clear guidelines for the future. It is acceptable, for instance, that certain appointments should be made according to the Speaker’s needs and preferences, but their term should last only for as long as the boss’s tenure. The suspension of the Vidhan Sabha Secretary also indicates how senior officials failed to protect the sanctity of an important constitutional institution.

This problem would have not arisen if the general class of politician had maintained a high standard of morality. Considered from the ethical point of view, there is absolutely no doubt that favours were granted to kith and kin by misusing the provisions. Unfortunately, there will be some who obtained the jobs on the basis of merit, which is why it is incumbent upon the courts to decide every case on individual basis. The way things are in India, it will be a long time before justice will be served.

Former Speaker Prem Chand Aggarwal is presently a Cabinet Minister in the Pushkar Singh Dhami Government. Thus far, the Chief Minister has avoided responding to questions on sacking Aggarwal. However, after the Speaker’s action, does he have a choice if Aggarwal, himself, fails to put in his papers? Dhami cannot duck responsibility at this stage if he wishes to retain any credibility as a ‘different’ Chief Minister representing the aspirations of the state’s youth. Government jobs remain the most coveted by a significant section of the populace and must go to only the deserving. Trust in this regard can only be established by doing the difficult but right thing at this crucial juncture!