By the Way

Talk of Cab Sec tenure

Is this the need of the hour?
Enter Vol.14 ISSUE 7-9 DECEMBER 2020

There are rumours in the media that the post of cabinet secretary may be made coterminous with the tenure of the Prime Minister! Meaning thereby, as and when the term of the Prime Minister is over, the term of the incumbent cabinet secretary would cease along with it. No doubt, the Prime Minister is the boss of the administration and he can do it any time if he wishes to do so. But is this really the need of the hour? Let us first understand the importance of the post of cabinet secretary and his secretariat. The cabinet secretary is arguably India’s most powerful bureaucrat and the right hand of the Prime Minister of India. The Cabinet Secretariat is responsible for firstly, secretarial assistance to the Cabinet and Cabinet Committees, and secondly, administration of the Rules of Business. The Cabinet Secretariat comprises three wings: Civil, Military and Intelligence. The Civil wing is the main wing and provides aid, advice and assistance to the Union Cabinet. The purpose of having the Military wing is to have better coordination in Intelligence and to provide secretarial assistance to the Defence Committee of the Cabinet and the National Defence Council. The Military wing is represented by an officer of the rank of major general, or its equivalent, who is designated as a joint secretary. The Intelligence wing deals with matters pertaining to the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Union Cabinet. The chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) officially first reports to the Cabinet Secretary and is designated Secretary (R) in the Cabinet Secretariat. The Cabinet Secretary also acts as the chairman of Senior Selection Board, which recommends postings of officers of the rank of joint secretary in the Union Government to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. One former Cabinet Secretary told gfiles, “the Prime Minister can keep extending the tenure of the Cabinet Secretary. It has been done earlier, there have been cab-secs who had a tenure of more than four years. Still the PM is within his powers to make the post coterminous.” But after observing the US power transfer scenario, insiders feel that the post should not be made coterminous with the tenure of Prime Minister as the cabinet secretary is the main interface with the government and needed for smooth transition of power. g

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