By Meetu Jain
NEW DELHI, 17 October 2020: While the Modi government has been at pains to ensure livelihoods are not lost in times of the pandemic, legislation it has passed recently proposes to do just that for some 92 employees of an autonomous organization.
Employees of the erstwhile MCI have gone to court but if they lose this legal battle, the worry for employees of other autonomous organizations is they too could be shown the door with Acts of Parliament applied with retrospective effect.
The MCI was replaced by the National Medical Commission recently. MCI employees realized that they do not have the security of a government job because they are public, not government servants.
It’s a distinction so fine that often one is confused for another. A government servant versus a public servant. The wedge between the two, of Article 311 of the Constitution, is now being keenly felt because it means that a public servant is not necessarily a government servant. In areas where it matters most, the latter’s job is protected with a Constitutional guarantee. A public servant enjoys no such distinction.
The 92 odd employees of the Medical Council of India now find themselves locked out of their office in New Delhi’s Dwarka headquarters. Their services have been terminated since the MCI has been replaced by the National Medical Commission by an Act of Parliament that specifies that the new body will have new employees not borrowed from the MCI. Or as a Niti Aayog report puts it, “untainted by the influence of the predecessor organization”.
Experts are clear that employees of autonomous, government organizations (which the MCI or for that matter the NMC is) do not enjoy the protection of Article 311 that stipulates, “No person who is a member of a civil service of the Union or an all-India service or a civil service of a State or holds a civil post under the Union or a State shall be dismissed or removed by an authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed”. Public servants such as MCI employees are not appointed by the UPSC.
MCI employees have now got a stay against their expulsion from the Delhi High Court and the outcome of this legal battle is being keenly watched by other public servants across the country. These could be anyone from commissioned officers in the Defence forces to municipal employees to the very judges who would be hearing the MCI case.
More specifically, organizations such as the Central Council of Indian Medicine, National Commission for Homeopathy which is also seeking legal recourse. There is a possibility of changes being brought about in the laws governing Dental and Nursing Councils too and in the AICTE, officials at MCI point out.
While officials are miffed at this fine distinction in applying Article 311 or security of tenure, experts point out that governments the world over are moving to performance-based employment. “There is too much security in a government job which is why many had started taking a government job for granted. This is also why section FR 56 (J) of CCS Rules (Pension) of 1972 is now being widely invoked to weed out dead wood, corruption, and non-performance,” admits an IAS officer.
DOPT Minister Jitendra Singh had told Parliament in August 2018, “As per available information provided by cadre controlling authorities, the 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.”
But what MCI officials are particularly stung by is a Niti Aayog report which specifies that one reason for not absorbing these employees in the new commission is the track record of the MCI. “In order to create a vibrant work environment, untainted by the influence of the predecessor organization”, the report states. While the MCI has been embroiled in allegations of corruption in the past, “there is not a single case against the present employees, no FIR, and no disciplinary proceedings. So why should we be targeted,” officials ask.
In 2010, the MCI was replaced by a Board of Governors in order to clean the Augean Stables. The new body proved to be equally inept with the CBI snapping at its heels for dodgy clearances that it gave to new medical colleges. The NMC, the Modi government hopes, will bring a sea change in dealing with corruption in medical education.