Rule 56 (j) being used more aggressively, vigilance heads asked to identify non-performers
The government has stepped up a process to identity the dead wood at the top rung of the bureaucracy, with a view to retiring several hundreds of non-performers over the next few months. According to sources, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Central Vigilance Commission have over the past few days given verbal instructions to the vigilance heads in many departments to expedite the process of identifying officers for compulsory retirement under Fundamental Rule 56(j) of Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972.
Though 56(j) that provides for compulsory retirement of government staff in public interest has existed for several decades, it has sparingly been invoked; the first Narendra Modi government made an attempt to make use of this rule but even it could get only about 230 officers to leave government service before their scheduled superannuation on grounds of non-performance/lack of integrity. This time round, the axe could fall on a few thousands at least, the sources said.
Under 56 (j), the performance of an officer who has turned 50 or 55 or has completed 30 years of service (whichever is earlier,) is being reviewed to ascertain if he/she is liable for compulsory retirement.
This rule to punish non-performers was revisited immediately after the first Modi government came to power in May 2014. However, the expected momentum could not be maintained due to a host of hurdles. The rules are now being implemented more forcefully for gazetted officers including those in IAS, IPS and other Group A services, Group B officers as well non-gazetted services. All the central PSUs and autonomous bodies have also been asked to replicate the compulsory retirement policy, the sources added.
Among high-profile 56 (j) retirements in the recent past are MN Vijaykumar (IAS), K Narasimha (IAS), Mayank Sheel Chohan (IPS) and Raj Kumar Dewangan (IPS).
Currently, there are about 48.41 lakh central government employees including defence and railways staff. Another about 6 lakh posts are vacant in various departments including the railways, armed forces, postal department, central schools etc.
The Modi government in its second term is aiming at accelerating hiring to fill up key vacancies in the government over the next couple of years to improve administrative efficiency and also to reduce unemployment.
The minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions and the PMO, Jitendra Singh (who held the same portfolios in the last Modi government too) had told Parliament on August 1, 2018, “As per available information provided by cadre controlling authorities, performance of a total of 25,082 Group A and 54,873 Group B officers has been reviewed up to May 2018; and provisions of Fundamental Rule 56 (j)/ relevant rules were invoked/ recommended against 93 Group A and 132 Group B officers out of these.”