ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has held that supervisory officer in any organisation should perform more like a mentor than a punishing authority by cracking whip on finding a fault in the performance of his subordinates.

The primary duty of a supervisor is to guide his subordinates to improve their per­formance and efficiency, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah wrote in a judgement iss­ued on Thursday in a case on a promotion dispute in the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

Justice Shah headed a three-judge bench that had taken up an appeal of the IB’s director general against a June 16, 2022 order of the Federal Service Tribunal (FST).

In its order, the FST had allowed appeals of respondents namely Riazul Wahab and Surkharu Khan and expunged adverse remarks recorded by the countersigning officer in their performance evaluation reports (PERs) and restored the assessment of their performance made by the reporting officers.

The respondents had joined the IB as assistant directors (BS-17) in 2001 and 2003, respectively. They were promoted as deputy director (BS-18) and director (BS-19) in due course for having an “unblemished and meritorious service record”.

IB’s appeal against service tribunal’s decision in promotion case dismissed

In Mr Wahab’s PERs, his reporting officer evaluated his performance as “very good” and “outstanding” and recorded him as “fit for promotion.”

Whereas in Mr Khan’s PERs, his rep­orting officer evaluated his performance as “good” and “very good” and recorded him as “fit for promotion”. But their countersigning officer downgraded their performance evaluation to “average” and declared them “unfit for promotion.”

The respondents preferred departmental appeals against the countersigning officer’s remarks. The appeal of Mr Wahab was not responded to while that of Mr Khan was rejected.

Consequently, they approached the FST which allowed their appeals.

In his judgement, Justice Shah observed that supervisory officers should see, having regard to the temperament of the officer concerned, whether the advice or warning given orally or in written form, or given publically in a general meeting of the officers or privately in a separate meeting with the concerned officer, would be beneficial for the officer in improving his performance.

It said the purpose of counselling was to improve the performance of the officer and not to insult or intimidate him.

The judgement said PERs were the most important documents in the service record of civil servants, which help the competent authorities in making informed decisions with regards to personnel administration matters, such as, selection for training, appointments/transfers, promotions, confirmations or screening of civil servants.

An officer’s promotion and retention in service mostly depends on what has been recorded in PER. It is, therefore, essential that PERs are written by the reporting and countersigning officers most carefully and responsibly, the judgement said.

If the reporting or the countersigning officer is partial, his opinion is likely to cause incalculable damage to the officer reported upon, and if a PER is ambiguous or carelessly written, it would not serve the true purpose of recording PERs.

Therefore, the reporting and countersigning officers should evaluate the performance of the officer reported upon in a detached and objective manner, the judgement said.

The respondents asserted that no adv­ice or warning was ever given to them by the countersigning officer before recording the adverse remarks and there is nothing on the record of the case to controvert their assertion, the judgement noted.

In the present case, it explained, the countersigning officer did not mention in the PERs that he had counselled the respondents for improving their performance nor did he justify his departure from the above rule of making prior counselling before recording the adverse remarks. He also did not give specific reasons for his disagreement with the evaluation of the reporting officers, the judgement said, highlighting a gross violation of the instructions by the countersigning officer in recording the adverse remarks in the PERs of the respondents.

Thus, the judgement said, the tribunal has rightly expunged the same and therefore there was no legal flaw in the FST decision.

The present petition is meritless. Therefore, it’s dismissed and the leave to appeal is declined, Justice Shah observed.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2023

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