SC directs CSB to reexamine cases of Grade-20 officers whose promotions were stayed by Prime Minister

KARACHI: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has dismissed the appeals filed by civil servants of Grade-20 against the decision of Prime Minister staying their promotions in Grade-21.

The apex Court has advised the Central Selection Board (CSB) to re-examine the cases of the said officers and make recommendations within 30 days while the competent authority shall finalize their cases within 15 days of the submission of the recommendations.

According to details, CSB had held its meetings from 11th to 13th February, 2014 to consider the promotions of civil servants of different Groups from BPS-20 to BPS-21. Out of the recommended lists, 18 officers from the Pakistan Administrative Services, 6 from the Police Service of Pakistan and 4 from the Foreign Service of Pakistan were returned to the Board by the appointing Authority.

The officers approached Islamabad High Court against the decision of the competent authority; the Court granted their appeals against staying their promotions while the Lahore High Court passed a judgment ordering implementation of the decision of Islamabad High Court.

On merits the Court held there was no information available to the competent Authority (Prime Minister) to come to a conclusion that the Board had not applied its mind in some cases and competent Authority had not given any reason for returning the recommendations of the Board thereby violating the principles of transparency, fairness and good governance, which amounted to discrimination against the candidates whose names were returned as the Board had nominated them upon the same criterion as applied to those whose recommendations were accepted by the competent Authority for promotion.

The Court further observed that the Board had evaluated the subjective assessment of integrity, general reputation and perception and awarded marks for it and that the return of some of the nominations by the competent Authority suggested that it was working on personal information or opinion, thereby violating the collective wisdom of the Board and the requirements of Due Process.

The Establishment Division approached Supreme Court challenging the decisions of the high courts.

The learned Attorney General for Pakistan referred to Section 9(3) of the Civil Servants Act, 1973 to point out that the Central Selection Board (CSB) is only a recommendatory body, whose recommendations are not binding upon the appointing Authority. He added that the Prime Minister had only referred the cases of the respondents to the Board for reconsideration with the direction that in case they are promoted, their seniority shall remain undisturbed.

Attorney General submitted that the Prime Minister is by convention empowered to return the cases of promotion to the Board for further consideration in case he disagree with its recommendations.

Attorney General placed before the Supreme Court some reports from the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Investigation Bureau (IB), which statedly were taken into account by the Prime Minister in deciding to return the cases to the Board. He informed that such reports were not available to the Board while considering the cases of promotions of the respondents.

The learned Attorney General next submitted that promotion to a particular post is not a right and a civil servant can only be considered for promotion.

Asma Jahangir, representing the officers, submitted that the Board was chaired by the Chairman Federal Public Service Commission and comprised of fourteen members, including Chief Secretaries of the Provinces, Federal Secretaries and in case of promotion in the Police Force, the concerned Inspector General of the Province; that the opinion or the recommendations of such an esteemed body are entitled to respect and though the appointing Authority may disagree with the opinion but the discretion of returning the names for reconsideration can be exercised only in exceptional circumstances and in a just, fair and reasonable manner.

It was pointed out that the Prime Minister, while returning the cases of the respondents to the Board, expressed a definite opinion on the integrity and reputation of the candidates and that too without making reference to any material on the basis of which such opinion was formed.

The learned counsel next contended that the reports of the ISI and IB about the respondents were an afterthought and were perhaps never placed before the Prime Minister.

It was argued that the reports of the Intelligence Agencies are not relevant and are to be excluded from consideration while forming opinion about the performance or integrity of a civil servant for the purpose of his appointment or promotion.

The Supreme Court observed that it becomes clear that the appointing Authority has to make promotions in basic pay scales 20 and 21 only upon the recommendations of the Board. It does not provide in either of the provision that the recommendations of the Board are binding and consequently be returned by the appointing Authority only when the procedure followed by the Board suffers from any factual or legal flaw.

The apex court ruled the impugned judgments of the High Courts are set aside and advised the Board to re-examine the cases the basis of the criteria already set.

Since the promotion of the respondents have been pending for the last so many years, let the Board make its recommendations within a period of 30 days and the competent Authority shall finalize their cases within 15 days of the submissions of the recommendations, the Court noted.

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