Taking a strong exception to Central Coalfields Ltd's board not represented by any woman director, a parliamentary panel has sought to know precise reasons behind it and has directed the Coal India arm to appoint one without any further delays.
Central Coalfields Ltd (CCL) is spread over eight districts of Jharkhand covering 2,600 square kilometres with a total of 42 operating mines, including 36 open cast and six underground.
The 22-member panel headed by BJP MP Meenakashi Lekhi while tabling its latest report on public undertakings has also asked the CCL to immediately fill up all vacancies on its board.
The Committee observed that out of the 12 sanctioned posts in the company's Board of Directors, one post of Director (Personnel) amongst the Functional Directors and one post in the category of a non-official director is vacant.
The Committee on Public Undertakings in its report on CCL has said the company’s Board is not represented by any ‘Woman Director’ which is not in consonance with the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013.
"This is despite the fact that the Secretarial Auditor of the Company has been continuously making these observations in their reports for the last many years," it said.
The Committee thus did not find any logical reason for not appointing Women Director on the Board of Directors of CCL, it added.
"The Committee would therefore like to be apprised of the precise reasons for not appointing the Woman Director in the Board despite the explicit provision for the same in the Companies Act, 2013 and its reiteration by the auditors for the last many years," the committee said.
It strongly recommends that all the vacancies on the Board be filled up immediately and the provisions of the Companies Act relating to the appointment of ‘Woman Director’ be complied with without any further delay.
It also raised questions over no Independent Director from the Board of the holding company i.e. Coal India Limited (CIL) is a Director in the Subsidiary Company i.e. CCL which is a mandatory requirement as per the DPE Guidelines on Corporate Governance.
The Committee also noted that there are two ‘permanent invitees’ on the Board of CCL, one the Chief Operations Manager of the Eastern Railway and the other one Principal Secretary (Mines and Geology) of the Government of Jharkhand.
"The Secretarial Auditor has observed that the attendance of the ‘permanent invitees’ in the Board meetings has been poor. From the submission of the Ministry of Coal on this point, it appears that the ‘permanent invitees’ are to simply function as ‘liaison officers’ with the State Governments particularly with regard to land acquisition, forest-clearance cases, occasional law and order issues relating to industrial relations problems, etc," the panel said.
It said it does not understand why the ‘permanent invitees’ need to attend all the Board meetings where the agenda of the meetings could be ‘confidential’ or on subjects such as commercial strategies, business operations etc, in which the presence of ‘permanent invitees’ may not be necessarily required.
"The Committee would like to be apprised as to whether the provision for ‘permanent invitees’ in the Board is as per the DPE Guidelines or this is independent decision of the Company," the report said.
Taking into account the fact that presence of “permanent invitees” may not be necessary in all meetings of the Board, the Committee recommended for bringing out the guidelines specifying the nature of meetings that need to be attended by the ‘permanent invitees’.
It said the remuneration if any to be paid to them, their tenure, their powers, responsibilities, their terms of reference, etc. should also be clearly brought out in the guidelines.
The Committee said it is also apprehensive about whether the ‘permanent invitees’ have served the purpose of liaising especially when CCL itself stated that many of their major projects have been delayed badly for many years for want of environmental & forest clearances, transfer of ownership, etc.
It cited the example of Magadh OC, Amrapali OC and Konar OC which should have been commissioned in 2006 but could actually get commissioned in 2014/2015 with delays of eight/nine years.
Similarly, it said commissioning of the projects - Chadragupta OCP, Sanghamitra OCP, Kotre Basantpur Panchmo OCP,etc, are experiencing delays primarily for want of environmental and forest clearances.
"The Committee are thus concerned as to how far the ‘permanent invitees’ have been effective in mitigating problems arising due to hurdles in getting clearances, land acquisitions, industrial relations, law & order, resettlement, etc," the report said.
It said it is of the considered view that the role of ‘permanent invitees’ needs to be much more effective to have a meaningful impact on expediting various statutory clearances and resolving local problems and recommended that Ministry should develop an appropriate mechanism for effective and gainful utilisation of the permanent appointees who are nominated in the Board.