Sacking of Babus Signals Crackdown on Laggards
Rule 56J invoked after over 30 years to review performance
New Delhi: The recent sacking of 15 customs and central excise personnel, including two at the level of commissioner, could mark a watershed in the annals of India’s civil services. A little-used rule has been employed to send a signal that poor performance could be a firing offence.
Rule 56J of the fundamental rules under the department of personnel and training was last used by the Central Board of Excise and Customs in 1985. The rule authorises the government to review the performance of an employee who is 50 years old or has completed 35 years of service. The government wanted to set an example and show that it will keep close tabs on performance and that any sloppiness won't be tolerated, said people aware of the matter.
Indian government posts are generally regarded as jobs for life and the few civil servants who do get sacked are either whistle blowers or egregiously corrupt — non-performance is almost never an issue. However, the latest decision was based on performance reviews and didn't from any specific vigilance action.
A senior CBEC official said an elaborate review had been undertaken before the officials were sacked. The dismissals took place in the past few days. “Performance review was a two-layered process,” he said. The reviews were conducted by panels at CBEC and department of revenue and they closely examined the track record of each official. The department of revenue panel was headed by the revenue secretary. The move may mark a step toward implementing a ‘perform or perish’ culture in government offices notorious for their inefficiency and propensity to harass citizens, although there are some exceptions to this rule.
To be sure, such dismissals can be challenged in administrative tribunals.