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IRS (C&CE): Demise of a service

By Rakesh Ranjan- 01 May 2016


It may come as a surprise to many that in approx 346 JS rank appointments; none from IRS (Customs & Central Excise) was accommodated. Indianmandarins' investigation into the matter has revealed that the absence of IRS (C&CE) officers in the JS rank was rather circumstantial than an outcome of a bias and prejudice against the cadre. The simple reality is that every JS-level appointment is mandatorily done through the process of empanelment. Since batches of IRS (C&CE) of 1987 and beyond do not have Rs 10,000 Grade Pay (on a regular basis) in the parent cadre, they disqualify for JS empanelment and loose opportunities to JS berth each subsequent month. 

The state in which the entire C&CE cadre finds itself can be largely attributed to a painfully endless saga of litigation by one of its feeder cadre (Custom Appraiser). Reason of suffering of all Groups-A C&CE officer is ironically none of their own making. The crux of litigation is seniority dispute within the Custom Appraiser ranks. In fact, there is no seniority dispute between Custom Appraisers and direct recruit IRS (C&CE) officers. But due to the non-finalization of seniority within Custom Appraiser ranks the entire cadre is in shamble. In view of editor the singular biggest failure of CBEC over the past few decades is its inability to manage and control the unbridled career aspirations of Custom Appraisers. 

It is also important to note that Custom Appraisers were recruited through the Civil Services Examination and were of Group B Services. Recruitment for Custom Appraiser was completely stopped in the year 2000. So the present litigation is by approx 25-30 appraisers who are still left in the cadre. The blame for this is attributed to the litigation by a handful of officers of feeder cadre (Customs Appraiser) who will be retiring in the next few years. The latest in the series of litigation is a remarkable order by Allahabad CAT. In response to their litigation, the Allahabad CAT on March 03, 2016 ordered the Central Board of Customs and Excise (CBEC) to review the entire seniority list and promotions since 1980. CAT, in its order, asked the Govt to travel back by approximately 40 years in time and un-do and re-do the entire series of promotion and seniority to benefit this handful of appraisers. This CAT decision, being retrospective in nature, has thrown everything out of gear. 

Cadre officers say the CAT order has nil probability of implementation because it's impossible for the Central Board of Customs and Excise (CBEC) to review all seniority lists and promotions since 1980. The timing of the CAT decision was also unfortunate. It came at a time when the regularization process of IRS (C&CE) batches up to 1996 was scheduled in the UPSC in the first week of April. Hardly four weeks were left for DPC when the CAT order struck like a thunderbolt on March 03, 2016. They are also hugely frustrated over the development and there are obvious reasons too. More than 100 commissioner (C&CE) rank posts are vacant. If all vacant posts are filled by eligible officers it will cover batches up to 1996. However, in the post-litigation scenario batches up to only part of 1993 could be promoted. Similarly, promotions to the grade of Principal Chief Commissioner and Principal Commissioner can not be effected because of the CAT order. 

At one blow, the CAT order has not only blocked the opportunities of promotion within the cadre, but has also finished the prospects of empanelment to hold Joint Secretary posts in Govt of India where, as per rules, up to 1995 batches should have been empanelled for the rank. Clearly, the order has made the IRS and C&CE cadre a graveyard of opportunities and aspirations. 
(By Rakesh Ranjan)

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