IHC upholds bureaucrats’ promotions

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday upheld the promotions of bureaucrats in BS-20 and 21 and dismissed the petitions filed against them, declaring that the government has the right to enhance the qualifications and standards for recruitment and promotion in order to maintain efficiency in service.

The petitioners in the matter included incumbent Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh and about two dozen superseded bureaucrats, who also challenged the Civil Servants Promotion Rules 2019.

An IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Lubna Saleem Pervez observed that the success of the chosen representatives and their performance were essentially premised on the quality, efficiency and competence of the civil bureaucracy. Except for the post that the civil servant happens to hold, one cannot claim vested right in other higher tiers in the hierarchy, the bench noted.

“Competence, professionalism and integrity of civil servants thus become one of the most important factors for the executive branch of the state in order to fulfil its obligations effectively under the Constitution,” it observed.

Dismisses petitions filed by Lahore police chief and other superseded officials against the Civil Servants Promotion Rules of 2019

Effective governance of the country depended on the quality of civil servants, who were expected to be politically neutral and to perform their functions professionally because they were responsible for running the day-to-day administration of the state, said the court order.

According to the Promotion Rules of 2019, CSB members are also free to consider marks on the basis of intelligence reports as the rules specifically mentioned that for the promotion to top posts, the CSB could take into account the information received against officers. Contrary to the earlier practice where the CSB had 15 per cent marks, the Rules of 2019 doubled the power of the CSB by keeping 30pc marks on the discretion of the board.

The IHC bench was of the opinion that the petitioners raised several grounds but in essence the main grievance was regarding the subjective evaluation of the CSB and marks assigned by the latter, which had been allocated under the quantification formula described in the Table of Rule 18(3)(b) of the Rules of 2019.

As per the court order, the Constitution is based on the foundation of trichotomy of powers between three distinct branches — legislature, executive and judiciary. The judiciary is entrusted with the task of interpreting the law and to play the role of an arbiter in cases of disputes between the individuals, inter se, and between individuals and the state, it explained.

The order said that as the Constitution laid down limits for each organ, which were required to remain within their prescribed limits, it was obvious that on the touchstone of the division of powers between the three organs, exercising judicial restraint in matters, which fell within the exclusive domain of the executive and for which the latter was answerable to the people, was a foundational principle.

It explained that the judiciary exercised the power of judicial review in order to determine whether actions taken by the executive were consistent with the Constitution and the law. Questionable actions of the executive, which involved abuse of discretion or based on unfairness and arbitrariness, were exposed to judicial scrutiny and amenable to the jurisdiction of judicial review under Article 199 of the Constitution. The court declared that the judiciary could not interfere in the policy-making domain by curtailing the freedom of the competent authority or to dictate what factors should or should not be considered.

According to the court order, it is a settled law that promotion is not a vested right. All that a civil servant can claim is to be considered for promotion when cases of similarly placed eligible civil servants are taken up. A civil servant cannot claim a right in relation to the issuance of a directive to the department to fill a post through the mode of promotion, nor that the case be taken up for consideration. It is the sole prerogative of the government and the competent authority to prescribe the qualifications and other conditions relating to the eligibility criteria.

The court observed that it was the sole prerogative of the competent authority to frame rules, regulations or policies in this regard and the same may at any time amend, alter or change the prescribed qualifications, conditions and eligibility criteria for promotion. The court ruled that a civil servant in this context had no vested right nor the exercise of this prerogative could be interfered with except when exceptional circumstances existed e.g. they were clearly person-specific or mala fide was apparent and floated on the record.

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