Apex court frowns on UP official's appointment



New Delhi: In an observation apparently directed at the Uttar Pradesh government, the Supreme Court on Monday said it could not pick up someone and appoint him to the top position in administration and pay his salary from the public exchequer.

"You can't pick up someone and appoint him and make him anything," said the apex court bench of Justice BS Chauhan and Justice TS Thakur while hearing a petition challenging the appointment of Shashank Shekhar as Uttar Pradesh cabinet secretary, a post usually held by Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers.

Shekhar is a qualified pilot and does not belong to the IAS. He was made the cabinet secretary in 2007 when Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) came to power.

The court's observation was made during the hearing on a public interest litigation filed by Harish Chandra Pandey challenging the appointment of Shashank Shekhar as cabinet secretary.

"In an ordinary course, it is the chief secretary who heads the administration and attends the meeting of the state cabinet and records its minutes," Justice Thakur said, asking if "you (Uttar Pradesh government) are dispensing with the (position of) secretary".

The court said that at the central government it was the cabinet secretary who was the head of the administration and in the states it was the chief secretary who led the administration.

Appearing for Shashank Shekhar, senior counsel Gopal Subramanium told the court that as cabinet secretary he was not the head of the administrative set up.

He told the court that Shekhar was appointed cabinet secretary in pursuance of the special rules that provided for it in Uttar Pradesh and they were there since 1950.

There were rules of business, Subramanium said adding that "can you depart from the (administrative) structure put in place under the rules".

The court inquired from Subramanium if Shashank Shekhar was also attending the meetings of the cabinet. "Is he present in the cabinet meetings," the court asked.

As the court said that it was a public office and the occupants' salary was paid from the public exchequer, Subramanium said that so was the case with the appointment of advisers who were given the rank of minister of state and paid from the public exchequer in the central government.

The court said that they were eminent people who were specialists in their fields, like Sam Pitroda, adviser to the prime minister on public infrastructure, information and innovations, and were appointed to give their expertise to the government.

The court was told that Shashank Shekhar had been given one extension which would end in April 2012.

The court adjourned the hearing till Monday giving time to the state government to file its reply to the central government's response.

IANS