Will Nandan Nilekani be held accountable for violating service conduct rules and citizens’ rights? Part 35
Nandan Nilekani, who was Chairman of UIDAI till 13 March 2014 had joined Indian National Congress on 9 March 2014 thus violating the service rules for government servants
Tolerably early in life I discovered that one of the unpardonable sins in the eyes of most people is for a man to go about unlabelled.
-TH Huxeley, a British biologist and a prominent defender of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution
Supreme Court, in its order dated 28 April 2014, directed that the case filed by Justice KS Puttaswamy (retd), Major General Sudhir Vombatkere (retd) and others, against Planning Commission’s Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which has been given the mandate for labeling Indian residents with a 12-digit biometric identifier number be listed for hearing “in the month of July 2014.” It remains to be seen whether the new government will bury the biometric identification schemes even before court hears the matter in July.
Meanwhile, a reply received under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that Nandan Nilekani, who was Chairman of UIDAI till 13 March 2014 had joined Indian National Congress on 9 March 2014. He sent his resignation on 13 March 2014 to the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, which was accepted on 18 March 2014 by the “competent authority” with retrospective effect from 13 March 2014.
Now that Narendra Modi has taken the oath of office secrecy as the new Prime Minister of India, it must be recalled that Nilekani held the official position in the rank of a cabinet minister but he did not take any oath of office or secrecy.
It is noteworthy that Nilekani’s candidature was announced by the Congress party on 8 March 2014, a day prior to his officially joining the party at the Congress office. After signing the Congress membership form in the presence of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwar at the party office in Bangalore on 9th March, Nilekani said “people want change and I am for the change. The Congress has existed for 130 years and let me assure you that the Congress will be there for the next 100 years. For the next 40 days, my focus will be on Bangalore South and I am here to win.”
On his blog
Nilekni states, “I am now officially announced as the Lok Sabha candidate for Bengaluru South from the Congress party” on 9th March itself. Admittedly, Nilekani resigned as the Chairman of UIDAI, three days after joining Congress.
Given the fact that Nilekani was a government servant when he joined a political party, it is evident that he violated Rule 5 that deals with “Taking part in politics and elections” of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 and Rule 5 of the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968.
This Rule provides: "No Government servant shall be a member of nor be otherwise associated with any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics nor shall he take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or activity.”
It also provides that “No Government servant shall canvass or otherwise interfere with, or use his influence in connection with or take part in an election to any legislature or local authority.”
According to the Rules, "government servant" means any person appointed by the government to any civil service or post in connection with the affairs of the Union and includes a civilian in a Defence Service. A government servant, whose services are placed at the disposal of a company, corporation, organisation or a local authority by the government shall, for the purpose of these rules, be deemed to be a government servant serving under the government notwithstanding that his salary is drawn from sources other than the Consolidated Fund of India.
In the matter of violation of this Rule as has been the case in the matter of Nilekani joining a political party, it is for his/ her immediate superior to “forward them through the normal channels to the authority competent to remove or dismiss him from service.
Except where such authority requires guidance or clarification from a higher authority, it shall consider the report and pass appropriate orders. If it is proposed to impose any penalty the procedure prescribed in the CCS (CCA) Rules, should be followed.” [MHA OM No. 25/40/55-Ests. (A), dated 22.02.1956]
Now the question is how will Nilekani be penalized for having violated these Rules? Since these violations happened after the commencement of election schedule on 5th March, the violation of the Rules merit the attention of the Election Commission of India as well.
He filed his nomination for the Bengaluru South Lok Sabha constituency on 21 March 2014. On 17 May 2014 Nilekani wrote, “I want to thank the Congress Party, for their faith in me as a candidate. I joined the Congress on 9th March, and I was entirely new to electoral politics. Yet the Congress leaders were incredibly supportive, and the leaders were united in their efforts for this campaign” his blog
In his affidavit of Nilekani has made asset declaration but there is no mention of his bungalow in Conoor, Nilgiri hills, Tamil Nadu, which he admittedly owns and the same has been reported. This property which Nilekani bought once belonged to Sarah Stoney, mother of Alan Turing, British computer scientist. This asset was in the news ‘A House for Mr Nilekani’ as recently as in January 2014. It was reported by The Times of India. There are many reports about this house. In short, the property details, which is missing from Nilekani’s declaration is as under: Location: Walkers Road, Coonoor, Bunglow Name: The Gables.
Post elections, there is a need to examine the veracity of Nilekani’s affidavit dated 26 March 2014 and the violations of rules by Nilekani, the chairman of UIDAI, who became the a member of a political party and a candidate in the Lok Sabha elections.
Besides these violations, it is noteworthy that Karnataka Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had reportedly petitioned electoral authorities against Nilekani because of his name and picture figuring with advertisements of Aadhaar, when the Model Code of Conduct was in force.
With regard to the RTI application seeking copies of all file documents and correspondence relating to Nilekani and right up to the resignation, S Mukherjee, director for administration at Planning Commission and assisstant CPIO replied, “Kindly indicate, specifically the documents and correspondence that are required by you.” On the face of it, the RTI application filed by Qaneez Sukhrani, a urban affairs researcher is quite specific.
In the meantime, the notification dated 30 July 2009 signed by TKA Nair, the then principal secretary to the Prime Minister, setting up the Prime Minister’s Council of UIDAI comprising of 12 members including A Raja, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology reveals that the Council has the mandate to “give advice to UIDAI on the programme, methodology and implementation to ensure coordination between Ministries/ Departments, Stakeholders and Partners” under Dr Manmohan Singh as its Chairman.
This Council, which was “serviced by Director General of UIDAI”, comprised of Finance Minister, Home Minister, Law Minister and the Foreign Minister among others to “identify specific milestones for early completion of the project” was clearly the guiding force. Therefore, it is evident that the charade of turf war between Finance Ministry’s UIDAI for biometric Aadhaar and Home Ministry’s biometric National Population Register (NPR) to claim bipartisan support from the latter had an ulterior motive to entrap BJP for good.
One of the first few tasks the new BJP-led government is going to be confronted with is to decide whether or not they subscribe to Congress’s ideology of labelling, branding, profiling and zeroing in on the present and future generations of every Indian citizen.
In a book ‘The Problem of Party Government’ published in 1974, its author Prof Richard Rose writes, “Office-holding is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of governing.” He added, “Where life of party politics does not affect government policy, the accession of a new party to office is little more significant than the accession of a new monarch; the party reigns but does not rule.” It is hoped that with change in regime, pre-existing orders too will change.
BJP has defeated Nilekani and his party, which he joined as the chief of Aadhaar implementing authority. Nilekani lost by 2.29 lakh votes but he came second with 4.05 lakh votes. It is noteworthy that he polled these many votes due to misuse of official machinery and the unprecedented support of almost all the commercial czars, who unsuccessfully attempted to manufacture consent in his favour. His Aadhaar project was supported by some key leaders of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too.
Will the new regime be able to defeat Congress’s regressive ideology rooted in biometric determinism at the behest of foreign military and intelligence companies by abandoning both Aadhaar and NPR