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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Even as senior IAS Gagan Dhal has not specified the reasons behind quitting the service  five-months prior to his due retirement date, the gossip mill hasn’t stopped buzzing on the unfolding of events on Thursday.

In the last decade, no such senior rank IAS officer had quit the service just before the due retirement. The precedents observed over the years is Senior rank IAS officers had opted for VRS post appointment to some constitutional office.

In 2017, the then Additional Chief Secretary Upendranath Behera, who was overlooked in the appointment of the then Chief Secretary, had opted for VRS, when he was appointed as Chairman of Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC).

Significantly, Dhal calling it quits has come after the mega August 15 restructuring. In the big reshuffle, the State Government appointed IAS Pradipta Mohapatra to the post of Agriculture Production Commissioner - the very post that was being held by Gagan Dhal. Notably, the notification didn't allocate any new responsibility to Dhal.

Gagan Dhal, a 1985 batch IAS cadre, was the Agriculture Production Commissioner. He was in Level -17, which was equivalent to the Chief Secretary rank. The senior IAS was due to retire from service in January 2020. The State government has appointed Additional CS Asit Tripathy as the new Chief Secretary, who belongs to 1986-batch.

Though the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) has recommended the tenure of a CS to be fixed at 3-4 years, none of the states has accepted the recommendation. Even, in the current case, CS designate Asit Tripathy will retire from the service in December 2020.

As per the ARC, while the Chief Minister is the appointing authority, the three guiding factors are: Seniority, Service Record and CM's evaluation. But the grey area is there is no specified weightage for the seniority or service record. Reports suggest it is the CM's evaluation that overrides the other two norms.

This, observers view, has irked Dhal to put in his papers on Friday. It is important to mention that while some reports suggest Dhal has resigned, others term it as voluntary retirement. The suspense lingers as there has been no official word from Dhal over his quitting the service.

In his letter to the State government, it is learnt that Dhal has stated that inspired by late Biju Patnaik, he has decided not to draw the pension benefits post retirement. It is this statement that fuelled the apprehensions on Dhal’s quitting from the service as resignation. Because, as per Apex court judgment, all the benefits of retirement is applicable to one who opts for VRS but the same is not applicable to one who has resigned.

As per the norms of VRS, an IAS/IPS officer can apply for retirement prior to the age of superannuation, provided he/she has completed 20-years of service. The concerned official usually gives a three-month notice period. The new rule has stated that post the expiry of notice period, the concerned official's VRS will come into force even if the concerned government has not vetted the VRS.

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