SC directs govt to set criteria to select envoyThe Supreme Court has issued a mandamus to the government, asking it to fix criteria on ambassadors’ appointment and follow the criteria in letter and spirit. It has also directed the government to maintain transparency while making such appointments, ensuring that only capable people are selected to the post.
The Supreme Court has issued a mandamus to the government, asking it to fix criteria on ambassadors’ appointment and follow the criteria in letter and spirit. It has also directed the government to maintain transparency while making such appointments, ensuring that only capable people are selected to the post.
“It is the sole jurisdiction of the executive whom to appoint as ambassador. But it is also a matter of public concern that function and duties of an ambassador is associated to the prestige of the nation and its welfare,” reads the full text of the ruling passed by a joint bench of Justices Om Prakash Mishra and Prakash Man Singh on May 4, 2017. “So, a capable person should be appointed as ambassador to represent the state in an effective way.” Responding to the writ filed by Advocate Manju Marasini, the apex court stated that qualified people in terms of education qualification, high moral character—not involved in any criminal cases—could be some of the criteria.
The ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions are entitled to diplomatic immunity, the government needs to ensure that only people with high moral grounds represent the state, the bench said in its ruling. “It is the primary job of the government to fix the required criteria for any appointments. Therefore, it is the duty of the executive to fix the criteria for the selection of ambassadors,” it said.
Ambassadors are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the government. In response to the SC order, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—the authority that recommends appointment of the ambassadors—stated that there is no separate law for the appointment.
As several ambassadors have courted controversy in the past for a lack of professionalism, indulgence in personal interest, among others, the government should a need to appoint capable person as an envoy, the court stated.
Citing some of the international practices where careers diplomats are appointed as ambassadors after a long service at the foreign ministry and in some cases, people from other backgrounds, the court advised the government to explore selection criteria.
The government divides the number of vacant ambassadorial positions between parties, often called political appointment, and career diplomats. Since there are no official criteria for ambassador appointments, the ratio for career to political appointments has been equal. The Minister of Foreign Affairs had made several attempts in the past to fix the criteria for the ambassador appointments, for both career and political appointees, but it could not implement that due to political pressure.