It could be a coincidence. When the nation, and in particular, Jammu & Kashmir, is ready to mark four years of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, the Centre is extending the tenure of one of the key architects of the Act, Rajiv Gauba, as Cabinet Secretary (CS) for one more year till August 2024.

This is his third extension and by the end of this stint, he would be the longest-serving Cabinet Secretary (five years). His predecessor, Pradeep Kumar Sinha, served four years and 79 days, while the second Cabinet Secretary of independent India, YN Sukthankar, was in the post for four years years and 78 days.

Normally, a CS can be given an extension beyond the fixed tenure of two years for another two years, but in two tranches. During Sinha’s tenure, the rule was amended to extend it beyond four years, and he was given an extension for three months. Now, again, the rule has been relaxed.

“The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved extension in service to Shri Rajiv Gauba, lAS (JH:82) as Cabinet Secretary for a further period of one year beyond 30.08.2023, in relaxation of AIS (DCRB) Rules, 1958 and Rule 56(d) of the Fundamental Rules,” said an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training.

According to All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958, the Central government may, if it considers necessary in the public interest to do so, give an extension in service to the incumbents of the posts of the Cabinet Secretary; Defence Secretary; Home Secretary; Director, Intelligence Bureau; Secretary, Research and Analysis Wing; and Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, for such period as it may deem proper.

However, the total term of the CS, who is granted such extensions of service, shall not exceed four years. The Fourth Proviso of Rule 56 (D) of the Fundamental Rules also prescribes a total term of four years for the CS.

The ACC is headed by the Prime Minister and such an order does not mention a reason for the extension. However, it is believed that the present government is entering the election phase and wants status quo in the top bureaucracy to ensure continuity.

It may be noted that the Home Secretary, AK Bhalla, the second key bureaucrat post, has also been given an extension for one year, and his term, too, will almost end with Gauba’s.

A 1982 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of Jharkhand cadre, Gauba is said to be the key architect of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, under which the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two Union Territories following the abrogation of the special status given to it under Article 370 of the Constitution.

Born in Punjab, Gauba graduated in Physics from Patna University. He had served in Jharkhand as Chief Secretary for 15 months before returning to serve the Central government in 2016 as Secretary, Urban Development, before moving as Home Secretary and then finally being appointed as the top bureaucrat.

Gauba’s linkedIn profile lists 15 areas he’s proficient in, ranging from strategic planning andpolicy analysis, to management consulting and project planning.

Gauba’s three predecessors, Sinha, Ajit Kumar Seth, and KM Chandrashekhar, all served four years while Gauba’s stint in office will outnumber the days they served as CS.