ISRO, recruitment controversy, CVC & fair investigation

Lalit Shastri

After the dismissal of the (Sunderlal) Patwa Government, the (Madhya Pradesh) Governor had announced the setting up of a one-person Inquiry Committee headed by the then Secretary GAD Sushma Nath to go into the acts of omission and commission leading to the riots and flaring up of the riot situation (post-Ayodhya riots in December 1992). The very next day my report was published in The Hindu questioning the Inquiry headed by a secretary level IAS officer into a matter involving even the State Chief Secretary and DGP since both of them had been monitoring the riot situation and issuing instructions. The Governor had acted positively on this and the day this report came in print, he disbanded the Sushma Nath Committee and appointed in its place a Judicial Panel. The next day, there was another report by me in The Hindu asserting the need to remove both the Chief Secretary and the DGP for the sake of objective and fair inquiry. The Governor that afternoon called members of the press to Raj Bhawan and announced the removal of both the the Chief Secretary and the State Police chief. (9th para of Diary of a journalist: Post-Ayodhya riots and immediately thereafter in Madhya Pradesh)

In this backdrop, I am drawing attention to the allegation that there has been nepotism and favouritism in the recruitment of the son of Secretary Department of Space and Chairman Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as Scientist/Engineer “SC” by Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), under ISRO, Department of Space.

A complaint in this matter has been lodged with the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. The CVC has communicated that the complaint has been duly examined by the Commission and having regards to the nature of the issues raised, it has been forwarded to CVO, DEPARTMENT OF SPACE for necessary action.

Further, the CVC has underscored as the Commission has sent the complaint for necessary action, it does not expect any report from the CVO of the organization concerned. The CVO is expected to scrutinize the complaint within a period of one month of receipt of the complaint from the Commission and decide if any action is required.

Hence, the obvious conclusion is that the role of the CVC in this matter ends and now the ball is entirely in the court of the CVO, DEPARTMENT OF SPACE.

The CVO, Department of Space, is a joint Secretary, reporting to the Secretary. The Confidential Report of the Joint Secretary is also written by the Secretary. Hence, there will be conflict of interest as a subordinate officer would investigate the allegation of favouritism and nepotism against a superior officer.

Moreover, a press release was also issued on Sunday 14 February 2021 by Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) under DoS, ISRO) reiterating that all posts recruited in LPSC are strictly as per procedures and norms laid out by the Department. Due to this statement by LPSC while the matter is before the vigilance authority, question arises whether or not the investigation by CVO, Department of Space, into allegation of nepotism in recruitment will be free fair and without prejudice? This question is being raised in public interest and for the sake of transparency.

Postscript: Since the PMO is seized of the matter and the Department of Space is directly under the Prime Minister, it would be appropriate if a Secretary in the PMO conducts the investigation.

Lalit Shastri is Editor-in-Chief Newsroom24x7

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