|BHEL CMD BP Rao
has been filed at the high court challenging the government’s decision to extend the CMD's tenure. “The extension has been granted against the rules framed by the (Union government’s) department of personnel & training (DoPT). Since the extension is illegal and arbitrary, the petitioner is challenging it,” says the petition filed by Ashok Kumar Bansal who has retired as general manager (production) from Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) on December 31 last year.
The proposal was cleared by a group of ministers (GoM) headed by finance minister P Chidambaram in May last year and a Cabinet note on the proposal is now with the department of public enterprises. The government is likely to take a final call before the electoral model code of conduct comes into effect. Once approved, ONGC chairman Sudhir Vasudeva, Indian Oil chairman RS Butola and Hindustan Petroleum’s S Roy Choudhury — all close to their retirement dates — will be the beneficiaries.
The government's decision granting a two-year post-retirement extension to Rao, just a day before his superannuation surprised many and equally enraged a few including Bansal. The decision was taken after a meeting of the Prime Minister’s principal secretary, Pulok Chatterjee, cabinet secretary Ajit Seth and heavy industries secretary Sutanu Behuria, on the ground that the company needed continuity in decision making.
Bansal is of the view that Rao’s extension will set a wrong precedent. “It is already reported that in many other PSUs, the government is planning to take similar illegal steps. Some of the other cases where such extension is being claimed by present incumbents and bureaucrats is Indian Oil Corp and ONGC,” the petition further said.
Bansal has asked for quashing of the extension and a direction to the Centre to produce records relating to the decision and to follow guidelines to fill the vacancy of the PSU at the top. Bansal argued while granting the extension, the government did not lay down rules to deal with similar requests at other PSUs; the decision has been passed using a top-down approach from the prime minister’s office, as opposed to the prescribed bottom-up process from the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB). And, that the cabinet secretary himself rejected Rao’s extension earlier but recommended it now.
Rao was appointed CMD in 2009 and was ue to retire by superannuation on December 31, 2013, having attained the age of 60 years.
“While the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has been given power to relax the age and qualification in relation to appointments, no such power is granted in relation to extension of tenure beyond the age of superannuation, except in the case of sick PSUs,” the petition said.
The PESB had in July 2012 said the selection process for a CMD in BHEL, shortlisting 12 candidates. These included three executive directors of BHEL. And, Rao’s extension came after PESB selected Prakash Chand, executive director at BHEL, as his successor.