DCGI appointment lacks transparency, not following competitive recruitment system; say experts

Nandita Vijay, BangaloreWednesday, August 24, 2011, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

A hunt is on to find the next Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) but transparency and a competitive recruitment process seem to have been given a go-bye, according to informed sources. These sources are of the view that  the candidate for the DCGI post should have a pharmacy background.

In the Drugs Act, the qualifications and experience for the post of Drug Controllers who are also ‘Licensing Authorities’ have been clearly prescribed. The posts need to be filled in through open advertisements. As per the normal practice of such senior grades which are all Gazette positions of the government, need to go through a selection process with UPSC.

“The DCGI’s post is finally a ‘political appointment’ and needs the nod of the Minister of Health. As a part of this selection process, suitable persons with the required qualifications and experience in the regulatory positions from within the ranks of the CDSCO need to be appointed,” stated sources.

It was during the tenure of Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who decided on a policy that only those who fulfill the requirements of law, and have necessary pharmacy qualifications could be appointed as DCGI. Further, going by the importance of this assignment in the health sector, the former late PM had upgraded the position of Drugs Controller India (DCI) to that of a Joint Secretary and since then the post was referred Drugs Controller ‘General’ of India. Dr Prem Kumar Gupta was the first pharmacy qualified DCGI appointed.

The process thereafter seems to have been changed, and all subsequent DCGIs have been appointed “on ad hoc” basis, at the behest of the ministry of health and the UPSC selection process seems to have been subverted. There is bureaucratic manipulation and the government prefers a candidate as DCGI who favours its moves, stated the sources.

“The DCGI’s is a torch bearer to the drug industry. Therefore the candidate should have the relevant technical qualification, possess the regulatory understanding and industry experience. Responsibilities of DCGI and execution of his assignments after appointment should not be dominated by the government. Rather appropriate checks should be exercised at all stages of the execution of the DCGI efforts. Any deficiency in service by the candidate should invariably questioned and relevant action needs to be taken, stated the consultants.

The government is required to redress the shortcomings of the recruitment process for DCGI. The recent Public Interest Litigation filed in the Madras High Court by the Tamil Nadu State Drug Control Administration’s ex-regulatory officer questioned the appointment of the DCGI, Dr S Surinder Singh forced the government to frame Recruitment Rules for the post. Now the government will need to adopt a selection process where the candidate is armed with both experience and expertise either from the CDSCO or the state drugs control departments, informed the sources.