The appointment of ex-IRS officer P C Mody, the former chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes, as Secretary General of Rajya Sabha triggered a political controversy Friday with the Opposition seeking to know the reasons for the removal of incumbent P P K Ramacharyulu barely two months after he was appointed.
Ramacharyulu took over as Secretary General of Rajya Sabha on September 1. He was the first Rajya Sabha Secretariat official to have risen to that post, a point that was flagged when he was named. Now he has been moved out and appointed as “Advisor.”
“It is surprising and shocking. When the Session had been called already, why this sudden decision has been taken, what are the reasons? What is the purpose and intention behind this, we have to find out,” Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge told The Indian Express.
He said the usual practice is to appoint law experts as Secretary General.
“Whether they have consulted the Vice President of India who is also the Chairman of the House, we don’t know. That also we will have to find out. Why have they appointed a new Secretary General in such a great hurry? Why have they replaced Ramacharyulu who was appointed just two months ago when the session had been called under his signature?” Kharge said.
Congress Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh responded on Twitter: “Not surprised at all. Dr P P Ramacharyulu is a thorough professional, non-partisan and perfectly qualified for the post — three deadly sins in the Modi regime.”
The Trinamool Congress and the RJD, too, expressed surprise.
“It is not known why a person who was appointed hardly 73 days ago has been replaced all of a sudden by an IRS officer,” Trinamool Congress chief whip Sukhendu Shekhar Roy told The Indian Express.
“I find it very bizarre and inexplicable. He could not attend a single session because his appointment was done after the last session was over. And on the eve of a new session you bring in somebody new; that raises questions,” said RJD’s leader in Rajya Sabha Manoj Jha.
Mody, a 1982 batch Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax cadre) officer, retired as CBDT chairman in May this year. He was appointed chairman in February 2019.
In June 2019, a Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (Mumbai) had lodged a complaint with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman against Mody in which the officer detailed what she described as his “shocking” directive to bury a “sensitive case”.
The complaint, reported by The Indian Express, was sent by the Chief Commissioner to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Secretariat. It also alleged that the CBDT Chairman had informed the Chief Commissioner he had “secured” his position because of a “successful search” action against an Opposition leader. When contacted then, Mody was unavailable for comment.
Two months after the complaint, he was given a one-year extension by the Government and was subsequently given two more extensions as head of the premier tax body.
Announcing Ramacharyulu’s appointment as Secretary General on August 31, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat had said he was “the first insider to have risen from the ranks of the Secretariat” and that “he had about 40 years of experience of handling various aspects of the functioning of the Parliament”.
He had joined the Secretariat in 1983 after serving in the Lok Sabha Secretariat for a year.
Ramacharyulu is the first Secretary General of Rajya Sabha with such a short stint in office. His predecessor Desh Deepak Verma served as Secretary General for four years from 2017. A 1978 batch IAS officer, Verma retired as Secretary, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs in 2013. After his retirement, he held the post of Chairman, Uttar Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission.
The Secretary General is the third most important functionary of the Rajya Sabha after the Chairman and Deputy Chairman. In the Warrant of Precedence, he holds the rank corresponding to the Cabinet Secretary.
According to the official profile of the job, the “Secretary General is appointed by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha from amongst those who have made their mark by long years of service in the Parliament or State Legislatures or the Civil Service.”
It defines the role as “advisor to the Chairman in the matters concerning Rajya Sabha or its Secretariat…expected to be the repository of the accumulated wisdom of the House; the custodian of its culture, traditions and precedents.”
Mody holds Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law degrees and has a Diploma in journalism.