The State government has decided to examine the possibility of creating a ministerial wing in the Excise department.
The Personnel and Administrative Reforms department will be asked to carry out a study on forming the ministerial wing with clerical posts and also fixing the duty hours of staff in the Excise department.
The government passed orders on October 17 in this regard after the Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT), in a March 21 order on two different petitions, asked it to consider the petitioners’ demands for forming the ministerial wing and declaring eight-hour duty in the Excise department.
In the absence of a ministerial wing, clerical duties are carried out by uniformed excise officers, unlike in other ‘uniformed’ departments such as the Police, Prisons and Forest which possess ministerial wings. At the same time, the department is also facing an acute shortage of trained officers for enforcement work.
The October 17 government order noted that 248 excise staffers, including 26 circle inspectors, 44 excise inspectors, 156 preventive officers and 22 civil excise officers trained for enforcement work, are now engaged in ministerial duties in various excise offices. If, instead, ministerial posts of clerks, senior clerks, head clerks and junior superintendents are created, these 248 officers can be reassigned to enforcement work, the order said.
While observing that excise officers posted at check posts and range offices “consistently work” for more than eight hours at a stretch, the order also pointed to the government’s limitations in creating new posts for enforcement duty.
In April 2018, the then Excise Commissioner had recommended the formation of a ministerial wing. The Commissioner noted that uniformed officers who are currently performing these office duties can be effectively redeployed for enforcement for which they are trained. In the absence of lower and upper division clerks and other ministerial posts, uniformed officers were being posted for “file work’‘ when there was a shortage in the field for enforcement-related duties, he had noted.
However, the government did not take a decision on this recommendation at the time.