Appointment of Legal Advisor in the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation
- Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi was appointed as ‘Legal Advisor / Retainer’ in the ESIC from May 2009.
- He retired as Secretary (Law), Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India.
- In the month of June 2009, the Advice Department of the Ministry of Law cleared the Bill for comprehensive amendments to the ESI Act within two days without examining the issues in a proper manner.
- The way in which the Ministry of Law responded to the applications under the RTI Act was puzzling and the way in which it disposed of the appeals under the RTI Act, was even more bizarre.
It was in these circumstances, those who happened to read the ESI (Amendment) Bill in the year 2009 and the replies received from the Ministry of Law entertained certain rational and valid doubts. They wanted to know the role of Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi, former Secretary, Ministry of Law & Justice, in this issue, i.e., whether he had, as ‘Legal Advisor / Retainer’ of the ESIC from 1.5.2009, given his clearance to those amendments.
As he was appointed first in the EPFO as Legal Advisor and this fact facilitated the ESIC to follow suit, they requested the EPFO to provide information regarding the appointment of Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi. Although sustained action was taken, they could collect only some information. Because they too had their own share of despair and tiredness, they did not pursue the matter after being stonewalled by the EPFO bureaucracy.
But, the part-information they collected and the manner in which the EPFO responded, were sufficient enough to understand that the EPFO had so many things to hide and became very fidgety over the questions on the appointment of Mr. K.N.Chaturvedi as Legal Advisor / Retainer in the EPFO.
Action is taken now to collect further information on this issue. However, the readers are not made to wait till then. The bureaucrats should know that playing merry-go-round with the RTI applicants would not work to their advantage but to the advantage of the public. They should also know that such tactics adopted by the public servants would prove to be counter-productive only to the public servants and not to the public in the ultimate analysis. The facts available on record and as furnished by the EPFO are, therefore, laid before the readers for their information. Future updates are promised.
Mr. K.N.Chaturvedi, who was working as Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice from 31.3.2006 and retired on 31.12.2007, was appointed in the year 2008 as Legal Advisor in the EPF organization on a monthly remuneration of Rs.20,000. His initial appointment was for a period of two years. He was later in the year 2009 appointed as Legal Advisor / Retainer in the ESIC also for two years on a monthly remuneration of Rs. 30,000.
In April 2009, as per the Government Schedule the rate of fees for retainership payable to the Assistant Solicitor General of India or Central Government Standing Counsel of Delhi High Court was Rs. 3,000 per month.
Mr. K.N. Chaturvedi was not paid on case-by-case basis to give opinion on legal matters. He was appointed and paid on time-rate basis, i.e., monthly remuneration.
If a department requires the service of a legal professional on permanent basis with a fixed monthly remuneration which was much more than the Government rates, it must appoint people for that post after formulating Recruitment Rules. There are such Recruitment Rules for the posts of various cadres of Legal Advisors, (like Assistant Legal Advisor, Deputy Legal Advisor, Additional Legal Advisor or Legal Advisor) in various departments.
If a department considers it enough to appoint legal advisors on contract, on monthly remuneration, it must follow the procedure prescribed in Appendix 12 of the FR which codifies the procedure for engagement of consultants. Such appointments must be made only for a period of six months which may be extended later. The Income Tax department and the AGCR are invoking only this provision for legal assistance. Options must be called for from, at least, a group or category of persons for selecting the competent persons for appointment as consultants on contract basis on payment of fixed time-rated remuneration. The applications thus received must be processed and decisions taken. The remuneration must be fixed by taking into account the Pension, if any, received and the Last pay drawn.
But, none of these formalities was followed by the EPFO in the case of appointment of Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi.
- Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi was the only applicant for that post in the EPFO. The EPFO said, in its letter No. LC-5 (11) 2010 /K.N.Chaturvedi/12373 dated 09.07.2010, that “as per the record of Legal Cell there was no names of other applicants for the post of Legal Advisor”. How, then, did Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi come to know about the vacancy in the EPFO? It was not explained.
- When asked whether Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi was a pensioner, the EPFO replied crisply, “Information not available”. What sort of bio-data was collected, then, by the EPFO when it considered only his application and appointed him to represent the Apex Body and that too for two years straightaway! The fact was that he retired as Secretary, Ministry of Law. Did he not mention this fact in his formal application?
- When asked whether the retainership fee of Rs. 20,000 was fixed for him only after taking into account the pension, if any, drawn by Mr.K.N.Chaturvedi, the EPFO simply replied that the “Ministry of Labour has approved the payment on recommendation of CPFC”. How such a recommendation was made by the CPFC was not communicated to the applicant under the RTI Act. The reply was a typical bureaucratic obfuscation.
- The EPFO confirmed in its letter Lr. No. HRD / 6 (5) 2010/RTI/ Reply/27994 dated 13.08.2010 that “there is no notified Recruitment Rules for the post of Legal Advisor in EPF Organisation”. How Mr. K.N.Chaturvedi was appointed on fixed monthly remuneration for posts on contract basis for two years at a stretch is not known.
- Two documents (Ministry’s communication of its approval and the copy of the terms and conditions of appointment) said to have been enclosed to the EPFO letter dated 9.7.2010 had not, actually, been received. But, the stapler-pinholes were there in the forwarding letter.
It is, however, obvious even from the scanty details furnished by the EPFO that the appointment of Mr.K.N. Chaturvedi in the EPFO was not in accordance with the rules on the subject. He was the only applicant for consideration. How he came to know the need of the EPFO for a Legal Advisor is a mystery. How the EPFO was not aware of his status before retirement and his status as a pensioner is another mystery. How the remuneration was fixed and recommended by the CPFC was yet another mystery. How can there be an appointment on contract for a period of two years, as proclaimed at the initial stage itself? Do the provisions of the UPSC (Exemption from Consultation) Rules permit it? That is another mystery!
These things remain mystery because the EPFO was not forthcoming with proper reply.
Efforts are on, now, to collect these missing details from the EPFO and the readers will come to know all the facts soon. The following information has been requested for from the CPIO of the EPFO on 16.10.2012:
- The copies of the relevant pages of the note-file sheets (file notings) dealing with the recruitment process of the Legal Advisor in the EPF Organisation in the year 2008 which led to the appointment of Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi as Legal Advisor.
- The copy of the application received from Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi
- The copy of the letter of the CPFC sent to the Ministry of Labour seeking approval for the appointment of Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi as Legal Advisor in the EPFO.
- The copy of the letter No. R–15015 / 02/ 08 – SS.II dated 4th June approving the appointment of Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi as Legal Advisor in the EPFO.
- The copy of the order No. LC/3 (38) 93 KCS of the EPFO containing the terms and conditions of the appointment of Mr. K. N. Chaturvedi as Legal Advisor in the EPFO.
Can appointment to a post in a public organisation be made as done in a private organisation, especially when the person is appointed on regular monthly remuneration and that too for a period of two years, at the initial stage itself?