Like Olympics, world cups and leap year, another thing sure to happen is some party talk around rechristening the ICSI. Usually, this informally happens just before leap year for a single reason already in public. This event occasionally gets formal. There are similar reasons used every time for acceptance and refusal of the exercise. Most company secretaries with humble backgrounds have an issue with term “secretary” and other with restrictive term “company”.
Secretary-General of United Nations, Cabinet Secretary of India, Chief Secretary of Indian States, Foreign Secretary, Finance Secretary, Secretary Home Affairs are officers more powerful than the elected government they work for. In India, a bunch of secretaries forms the permanent government which notionally work for the elected government. No, I am not against the system which brings long-term stability unlike the United States each president bring own set of top secretaries. In any system of government, secretaries form major power centre.
Indian business bosses and general public usually do not deal with these power centres – secretaries. Indian usually refers secretary to Personal Assistant. No doubt, most personal assistants or executive assistant working for their powerful bosses have no less power. Many Company Secretaries come from the humble background. Many times, unaware relatives and neighbours also clarification about the job description or job title.
This term certainly deserves debate for more than one reason. I find this term restrictive and restrict the profession to companies. Nowadays, all kind of business, as well as government organizations, need professional secretaries as the key managerial person. The profession may offer services to regulatory bodies, self-regulatory organizations, non-profits, multistate societies, national trusts and other forms of business.
Democracies do not use charters – a tool of feudal and monarch. British system may accept chartered Accountants and Chartered Secretaries as they have a namesake monarch. We are a biggest democracy in the world.
This term has no departure from present “company secretary”. This is another restrictive term restricting the profession to formal corporate setups. A company secretary these days need not serve a corporate-only but any stakeholder.
Public Secretary is a suitable term. The profession is not restricted to a company or any other form of corporate setup. The profession may assist any stakeholder in any corporate or non-corporate setup. The profession offers all kind of paralegal services and secretarial services to any business, non- profit, non-government and government sectors. Now, the profession does not restrict to service of few stakeholders of corporate setups but anyone who is interested in governance. In true sense, we serve the general public in its role of conscience keeper of national governance, corporate governance and governance of humanity beyond borders.
Risk of rechristening
Rechristening is not without risk. We have earned some public gaze recent years. The Public is now slowly acknowledging the role of company secretary. Renaming may require starting once again.