In a rare order, the Tamil Nadu Information Commission has recommended “compulsory retirement” to nine IAS officers in the State, who held the post of Chairman, Teachers’ Recruitment Board, between June 2011 and October 2020.
Asking the Chief Secretary to record in the annual confidential reports of the nine officers that they failed to ensure accountability and transparency while heading the TRB, State Information Commissioner S. Muthuraj recommended that disciplinary action be initiated as per rules and they be sent on “compulsory retirement”.
The case pertains to the recruitment of teachers/assistant professors through competitive examinations conducted by the TRB on various occasions. The contention of some candidates who moved the TNIC was that though they entered correct answers in the multiple choice questions, they were marked wrong, denying them marks and resulting in them not getting the jobs.
Expressing concern that a lack of accountability and transparency had resulted in the same mistakes being repeated in the conduct of competitive examinations, particularly in the TRB, Mr. Muthuraj directed the TRB Chairman to implement the TNIC’s order to provide full and complete information sought by the petitioners (who sought to know why they were not given marks despite entering the correct answers and also the material on the basis of which the answer keys were finalised) and initiate action against those responsible for preparing the wrong answer keys.
He said officials in the TRB not just failed to address the issue despite court and TNIC orders, but they had also not taken steps to make sure such anomalies do not recur. Had the authorities concerned published the relevant study material or books on the basis of which answers were finalised at the time of releasing the tentative answer keys and acted as per the National Litigation Policy or the State Litigation Policy, cases before courts and the TNIC could have been avoided, he said.
Invoking various provisions under the Right to Information Act, 2005, Mr. Muthuraj, after citing various dereliction of duties on the part of the IAS officers who held the post of Chairman, TRB, wrote to the Chief Secretary, recommending that they be sent on “compulsory retirement”.
Civil servants, both serving and retired, dismiss the recommendation as one that does not seem to be sound, and point out that such a recommendation is “not binding” on the government. One of the IAS officers recommended for “compulsory retirement” retired over five years ago.
Pointing out that one of the rules governing the All-India Services relates to effecting compulsory retirement in respect of those who have completed 15 years of qualifying service or 25 years of qualifying service or attain the age of 50, they said the option of “compulsory retirement” could be used in respect of any officer only after carrying out a review of the officer’s performance, and that too, recording adverse observations at least on three occasions. A few of the IAS officers do not get covered under the rule, as they are young.
If “compulsory retirement” is to be given as a mark of punishment, there is a separate disciplinary process to be undertaken, even though there is a divergent opinion with regard to treating compulsory treatment as punishment. However, it is the government that has to decide whether to initiate disciplinary proceedings or not. At best, the TNIC could have recommended to the government to initiate disciplinary action, the civil servants said.