Friday, March 26, 2010

A Mere Auditor or the Great Führer?

The Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt defined the sovereign as one who decides what is and what is not law.

The Führer was, according to him, the source of law. He was not, for that ‘reason’, subject to any law, but existed in supreme abandon outside it all.

The most loud-mouthed of all self-proclaimed pure Aryans, Hitler, might have been dead for over half a century, yet his shade continues to reappear time and again in lesser führers.

Punjabi University, Patiala is currently saddled with an auditor, designated as Deputy Controller Local Audit (DCLA), who gleefully dismisses all lawful authority. And he does it with absolute impunity. One can empathise with him, because he sits in the University campus, for treating the University Syndicate as just another next-door institution; but even the University Grants Commission, the Government of Punjab (especially its Departments of Finance and Higher Education), the Parliament, the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court of India evoke little if any respect and awe in this official.

More than 20 University teachers have, through personal meetings between their delegates and the Examiner Local Fund Accounts (Punjab), twice complained against his refusal to apply the same yardstick while auditing the cases of teachers promoted under Career Advancement Scheme on the basis of past service. Each time the Examiner has heard them, offered tea and biscuits, assured prompt action, but done nothing.

One of the University teachers, Dr. D. P. Singh, of the Department of Botany, sought information from the Examiner under RTI. Nearly four months later and after several reminders, he received only vague, incomplete and evasive replies. And these too, not from the Examiner’s office, but from the Regional Deputy Director Local Audit.

The Department of Finance, Punjab Government, has twice conveyed to various government and University officials that the past service of employees should be counted for time-bound promotions under career progression schemes. (As I write this piece, The Supreme Court has said that promotion is an employee’s fundamental right). The Department of Higher Education also sent a memo (No. 8/8/0/-461/1811-14) in this connection on 16-01-2008, along with copies of the aforementioned circulars of the Department of Finance, to the Registrars of various universities. This was done on the basis of the law laid down by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and by the Supreme Court of India in 1998. The circulars carried, perhaps for the skeptical in the officialdom, extracts and a gist of the court judgments especially mentioned in the circulars.

The circulars and the memo, as predictably destined, disappeared into the abyss that the office record rooms famously are.

When the DCLA as well as the Registrar of Punjabi University expressed ignorance of any such communication from the Government, a delegation of affected teachers handed over copies of these to both of them a year ago. Neither the DCLA nor the Registrar, for some unknown reason, is however even ready to mention the letters, although in reply to an RTI application the Registrar tersely and enigmatically stated that the memo had been forwarded to the concerned departments for compliance.

The DCLA, who has no memories of the memo nor of the two circulars, is somehow possessed by the ghostly photocopy of an unauthenticated letter which, he once told a group of teachers, appeared one sleepy afternoon on his table after he had been away to eat his well-earned afternoon meal. The letter is ostensibly ‘signed’ with impressive economy of self-expression by some unidentifiable office superintendent of the Department of Higher Education and addressed in 2006 to the Registrar of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

So high is his opinion of the authority of the unauthenticated ‘letter’ that he wants the justice-hunting teachers to meet no less than the Principal Secretary Higher Education himself to get this letter superceded. The memo of the same Department sent in 2008 on the basis of the court verdict has no meaning, he says, until that ghostly letter is laid to rest. The all-knowing DCLA has obviously not heard that new orders are supposed to supersede the old ones.

At the same time he continues to regularly audit, without any objection, the identical cases of 24 teachers of the University. They include Dr N. S. Attri (Botany), Dr. R. S. Ghuman (Economics), Dr Shakuntala (Economics), Dr. Balwinder Singh (Economics), Dr. Gurmel Singh (Physics), Dr. H. S. Bhatti (Physics), and others. The latest in the list is Dr. Lakhwinder Singh (Economics), whose case was audited as recently as in 2008.

The Regional Deputy Director and the Examiner both admit, when confronted by the agitating teachers, that there are no grounds for discrimination, yet both are non-committal when it comes to removing the discrimination. The teachers cannot but conclude that a racket is operating in the Department of Local Audit, as in so many other Departments, with the seniors shielding the juniors even as the latter cock a snook at the law.

The DCLA says the decisions of the Syndicate, in order to pass muster with him, have to be in accord with the Punjab Government policies. Yet he disregards the orders of the same Government, communicated through sarkari circulars and memos, while clinging to a dubious, unrelated and old-and-dead letter allegedly received once upon a time by another University in response to some now forgotten query.

And the same DCLA has never objected to the auditing of cases of re-employment of retired teachers by the University. In these cases, the decision of the University Syndicate is final and sufficient for him, although the Chief Minister of Punjab has himself clearly expressed (as the media widely reported last year) his disapproval of the practice of granting any extension to retiring employees. In these cases, the DCLA happily grants audit clearance without any orders from the Department of Higher Education.

That is to say, he chooses to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to particular cases on the sheer strength of his sovereign power. He is the legislator, the executive authority, and the judge.

I would lick the flames of Hell for eternity for the sake of one mortal day in his seat!

The University, with its entire moral and intellectual authority and with its battery of legal luminaries and, above all, with its current Registrar who is himself a Professor of Law, stands helpless before the DCLA, the latter-day Great Führer.



Badri Raina said...

this johnny should have a short shelf life;

Anonymous said...

it is difficult to suffer re even tolerate headless autocratic behaviour
insolence is the hallmark of usurpers to power
god save the meek and righteous
all the best
rama rao

Amrit'A said...

good morning sir

these type of persons are everywhere

Deep Inder said...

The prob is, there are 2 many führers in our state/country...

Anonymous said...

A true blue-blooded bureaucrat this DCLA is, someone to put Weber to shame. But for these self-styled Fuhrers, India would not score so high on corruption index.
Kudos Mr. DCLA but remember one couplet:

Ho jaati hai jab buton mein khudayee paida
Hamne dekha hai unko tod diyaa jaata hai.

Badri Raina is right that the johnny should (I say he has) have short shelf life.

Carry on your crusade against the Punjabi University Fuhrer. All bullies are cowards at heart.
Best of luck.