Anger at Alka Mittal's no-show for NCSC hearing

Vol 25, PW 13 (02 Jun 22) People & Policy

Acting ONGC chairwoman Alka Mittal has enraged the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) by failing to show up for a hearing to face charges that ONGC's recruitment and promotions policy discriminates against lower caste employees.

The Commission summoned Mittal to appear at a hearing on May 18 (2022) in a case filed by petitioner NG Patel, general secretary of the central working committee of the All India Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Employees Welfare Association (AISCSTEWA). Patel approached the NCSC in December 2021 over alleged illegal changes to the ONGC recruitment and promotions policy after receiving no response from ONGC management to his detailed complaints.

NCSC vice-chairman Arun Halder recorded in the minutes dated May 19 (2022) that it had not taken Mittal's absence from the May 18 hearing lightly. "The authority (Mittal or any other ONGC representative) didn't appear in the hearing without any lawful excuse," said Halder.

A source tells this report that NCSC employees even phoned the ONGC chairman's office that day to inquire if Mittal or any representative would attend. "Furthermore, the commission recommends that if the authority (ONGC) fails to appear on the next date of hearing without any lawful excuse, this will attract the necessary provision of Article 338 of Constitution of India and relevant sections of the Scheduled Castes & the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989," noted Haler.

Under this law, the government can file criminal charges against anyone that violates it and register a non-bailable offence. A constitutional body set up in 2004, the NCSC is a powerful quasi-judicial institution that protects the interests of scheduled castes and underprivileged sections of Indian society.

At its last hearing in this case on March 9 (2022), ONGC sent its chief employee relations AP Singh and another senior HR manager Rajan Asthana. During that hearing, the NCSC demanded details, including the test scores used to promote 674 executives.

But according to NCSC minutes issued on March 16 (2022), ONGC failed to submit the details.