If the appointments committee (ACC) of the Union Cabinet rejects a CEO recommended by the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), the panel must give in writing why it thinks s/he cannot be appointed, the Supreme Court (SC) has said.
The court’s stand aims at giving PESB more say in selection of top executives of central public sector units (PSUs). It also means that ACC can’t arbitrarily select top executives and such decisions can be quashed by the judiciary. PESB was set up in 1887 to create good managerial policies for PSUs and advise the government on appointments to top posts.
The apex court made these observations while dismissing
an appeal by the Union government against a Delhi high court judgment last year that scrapped ACC’s decision not to appoint Bhaskarendu Datta Majumdar, director (marketing) in the State Trading Corporation. Majumdar had a commendable service record during his stint as chief general manager.
In his petition, Majumdar alleged that then Union home minister Shivraj Patil and then cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi wasn’t in favour of him getting the post, which is why, despite a PESB recommendation, he did not get it. Interestingly, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) too had suggested Majumdar’s name.
The commission also revealed that though Majundar faced certain inquiries and allegations, he had been exonerated of all charges. Majumdar moved Delhi high court, saying the ACC’s decision was arbitrary, and that arbitrariness is anathema to good governance.
Though additional solicitor general PP Malhotra said that the ACC’s decisions cannot be screened by a court, a bench of justice Harjit Sigh Bedi and JM Panchal told Malhotra that he had not been able to show any reasons why the ACC differed with the PESB over Majumdar.
Therefore, it leads to the only inference that “no reasons whatsoever had been recorded by ACC to discard Majumdar’s name for the post”. According to the court, if the appointments committee’s differs with a decision made by PESB, it must “give reasons for differing to ward off any attack of arbitrariness and those reasons must be recorded in the file’’.