In a damning verdict, the Peshawar High Court declared as illegal transfer of several officers of different departments on deputation against important posts in the Peshawar Development Authority and described the practice as placing of ‘blue-eyed’ employees by unknown competent authorities in PDA.

A two-member bench of senior judge Justice Roohul Amin Khan and Justice Syed M. Attique Shah ruled that as per relevant rules most of the posts in PDA had to be filled on the basis of promotion-cum-fitness from among the serving employees.

The bench has recently allowed a petition jointly filed by PDA Officers Welfare Association through its president Engineer Abdul Ghafoor, and several of its employees and declared as illegal the transfer of all such officers, including 12 of them named in the petition as respondents, to the PDA on deputation.

The court has directed the respondents especially the PDA’s director general to immediately initiate the process of promotion to all the posts filled and occupied by the 12 private respondents mentioned in the petition and subsequent deputationists and consider eligible employees of the department for promotion strictly in accordance with the rules i.e. seniority-cum fitness as provided in the service structure.

The bench in its 19-page detailed judgment ruled that since no fresh Rules had been framed, approved and notified under the PDA Act of 2017, therefore, the old PUDB (Provincial Urban Development Board) Rules of 1978 would be deemed to be operative.

“Under the Rules of 1978, the Service Structure of the employees of the Board nowhere provides for transfer of deputationists. All the posts from BPS-4 to BPS-20 are either to be filled by way of initial recruitment or through promotion,” the bench ruled.

The court maintained that an iota of evidence had not been brought on record by the respondents, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary, secretary local government and PDA DG, to show the exigency and need of transfer of the private 12 respondents (deputationists) on deputation.

“Similarly, they have also not brought on record anything to the effect that the petitioners are deficient of qualification, experience or ineligible to be promoted against the posts filled in by way of transfer on deputation through private respondents,” the court ruled.

The bench has also mentioned several orders in its judgment of transferring of officials from other departments on deputation to PDA and ruled: “The orders speak volumes about the whims and wishes of some unknown competent authorities for placing the services of blue-eyed employees in the PDA.”

The bench has discussed in detailed filling of posts through deputation or ‘lateral entry’, stating that under the rules lateral entry means entry into service of the Board from another organisation, autonomous body under the provincial government or from one cadre of the Board (PUDB) service to another cadre or post.

“We have examined all the orders of private respondents, wherein none was found to have been requisitioned by the Director General PDA or the Authority has felt necessity of filling any post through lateral entry in the PDA from the provincial government employees,” the bench ruled, stating that neither the additional advocate general nor the PDA’s counsel could convince the court about any exigency and need of the Authority which necessitated the filling of regular posts by way of transfer on deputation, depriving the permanent and eligible employees of the department from their due right of promotion.

The bench ruled that perusal of different orders of transfers to the PDA on deputation of the 12 respondents and some other officers would reveal that on the face of it the same were the result of some extraneous considerations and not made on the principles of merit, transparency and credible process.

“Neither any proposal or request has been made by the borrowing department for need of services of the deputationists nor any permission in shape of ‘No objection’ is granted by the lending department,” the court maintained.

The bench regretted that eligible employees waiting for promotion in their respective cadres had been denied the right of promotion to the higher posts without any valid reason and inexperienced persons without any skill and specialisation were brought and posted on deputation against the technical posts.

The bench has also expressed concern over the role of PDA’s DG, observing “over and above, it is shocking that the Director General PDA without any resistance and hesitation has adjusted all of them against the posts neither commensurate with their skills, experience or qualification nor has agitated before the lending authority that according to the Rules these posts shall be filled from the eligible employees through promotion.”

“The deafening silence and conspicuous attitude of an officer sitting on the helm of affairs of an Authority like PDA, was surely a great concern of this court. Much was expected from the Director General PDA when the valuable rights of its employees were being taken by the executive authority,” the bench ruled.

In its judgment, the bench has also named some of the officers transferred on deputation, including an archaeological engineer of archaeology department, a senior auditor of Military Accountant General Rawalpindi, principal of a technical institute, an electrical supervisor of TMA Town-III Peshawar, an assistant professor of Hazara University, etc.

One of the counsel appearing for the respondents stated that they would challenge the judgment before the Supreme Court. He said the petitioners were employees of PUDB and not PDA, which was a separate entity under the PDA Act.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2021

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