The High Court Division has finally issued a verdict declaring placement of the services of civil servants as Officers on Special Duty (OSD) illegal beyond the permissible 150 days period. This came in response to a public interest litigation bill filed by a former civil servant challenging the legality of placing civil servants as OSD for indefinite periods longer than 150 days violating the government circular issued on October 3, 1991. In an earlier move years ago, the High Court had asked the government to explain reasons for posting public servants in large numbers without any job assignments as OSD. The HC also wanted clarification on the specific rules in practice, the time limit or tenure of the post and most importantly, the state expenses that accumulated over the years on account of the mounting number of this category of civil servants.
There was no way the concerned authorities in the government could provide convincing answers to the aforementioned queries. Understandably, the authorities resorted to buying time on one pretext or another, but now that the verdict is declared, one has the feeling that a dark chapter in the civil service administration will be over. The issue surfaced many a time for years, and it was not only the covert rationale behind the scheme of things that sparked severe criticism of the practice but also thoughtless squandering of tax payers' money on just nothing. The practice of placing the services of civil servants to no productive purpose but to endless time-off and leisure with full salary and other perks is perhaps the most uniquely degraded aspect of Bangladesh bureaucracy today.
OSD is a supernumerary post, equivalent to the status of an official having been stripped off his official duties and responsibilities. The supreme irony in the name being that the post, 'special' as it is, does not demand the incumbents to do any work at all. The general perception thus suggests that asking an official of the republic to continue without assigning him any duties is a disparaging, if not an outright punitive action. Nonetheless, there may be occasions when freshly transferred or promoted officials cannot be posted to specific jobs because of over-staffing in the ministries, requiring them to be made OSD till the situation turns suitable for assigning them to specific jobs.
The increasing number of these officers on special duty during the present and previous governments, however, tells an altogether different story. In most cases the acts on the part of the successive governments are politically motivated. This explains why a large majority of this category of officials do not feel socially belittled despite the interminably long time off, as people -- relations, friends -- are quick to attribute the OSDship to their falling out with the government. But there are indeed a sizeable number of officials who feel utterly frustrated for being shunned in total disregard for their capabilities to run the critical affairs of the state. The HC verdict is no doubt a landmark one in bringing an end to an abhorrent practice that almost became part of the system.
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