Jaishankar takes charge as Foreign Secretary

S. Jaishankar will have a two-year tenure as per rules.

S. Jaishankar will have a two-year tenure as per rules.

Less than twelve hours after the government’s official notification appointing him, the new foreign secretary, Dr. S. Jaishankar took charge on Thursday morning.

Dr. Jaishankar, who was in Delhi after U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit when he was informed of the decision, refused to answer questions about whether the order on replacing Ms. Sujatha Singh was a surprise. “I don’t think this is the time to get into those kinds of questions,” Mr. Jaishankar told journalists shortly after assuming office, adding “My priorities are the government’s priorities.”


The government’s decision to appoint him, after “curtailing” Ms. Singh’s tenure by seven months, however did send shockwaves in the administrative services, given that it is relatively rare that officers at the highest level have their tenure “cut short” in this manner.

However, former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramanian told The Hindu , that the government’s decision was “technically correct”. “She was seen as an appointee of the old government, and the new government measured each person, before deciding on whether to retain them,” he said.

In essence, Ms. Singh had reached the retirement age in 2014, but had a fixed two-year tenure when the Appointments Committee of the cabinet decided to cut it short. According to the Fundamental Rule 56(d) cited in the Department of Personnel and Training notification, even if a secretary to the government is kept in position past their 60th year, their remaining tenure is treated as an “extension of service”, and can be dismissed at the government’s discretion.

In the past, the cases of former foreign secretary A.P. Venkateswaran have been cited, who was dismissed publicly in 1987 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and then submitted his resignation, and foreign secretaries Jagat Mehta and S. K. Singh, who were asked to step down early in 1979 and 1990 respectively. In a letter to her IFS colleagues, Ms. Singh on Thursday said she had “sought early retirement from the government”, also called Voluntary retirement or VR.

Mr. Jaishankar’s appointment comes close on the heels of several other decisions by the government to replace senior officials, especially in the sphere of strategic and security affairs. Earlier this month, the government sacked the DRDO chief, who had fathered the Agni missile programme, Avinash Chander, 15 months ahead of the end of his tenure. In November 2014, the Director of the Special Protection Group that oversees VIP security, Durga Prasad was informed of his dismissal when on tour with the Prime Minister in Nepal. And the 17-member National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) will be reconstituted shortly, after the term of present Chairman Shyam Saran ends on January 31. With the exception of the NSAB decision, which is on time, it is the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet which comprises Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh that made the abrupt decisions resulting in criticism of the government.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2022 6:39:14 am |