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After cutting out ministers from the appointment of senior bureaucrats, the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) has now reduced the Home Minister to a rubber stamp in the selection process.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has to now merely sign on the dotted line after Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved an appointment. The bold print at the bottom of most proposals to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) says: Approval of the Home Minister will be obtained ex post facto in the ACC.
The procedure now is as follows: the Establishment Officer moves the proposal to the Cabinet Secretary who obtains the approval of the Prime Minister. Once that comes through, the Department of Personnel & Training issues the posting order, while sending the file to the Home Minister for an endorsement of the PMs approval.
This is a marked departure from the past, when the Home Minister had the first say, after the administrative ministers approval, in the appointment all officers of the rank of Joint Secretary and above, including officers in public sector undertakings.
ACC proposals were first sent by the Cabinet Secretary to the Home Minister for approval, before they were ratified by the Prime Minister. In the new way of doing things, even the Minister of State for Personnel & Training is better off, as he gets to see all proposals before they are moved by the Establishment Officer to the Cabinet Secretariat for approval.
The new routing, besides underlining the diminished position of the Home Minister, gives more importance to the EO and Cabinet Secretary in the selection of top bureaucrats. They now have more discretion in putting up names for senior posts to be approved by the PM alone, officials said.
No official was, however, willing to talk about the way in which the new routing came about. The footnotes were introduced by the Cabinet Secretary, they said, adding that it has been almost a month since the new practice began.
On June 18 this year, the Cabinet Secretariat issued a circular saying the ACC would comprise the Prime Minister and Home Minister, doing away with the January 2013 circular which included the administrative minister in the ACC.