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ISLAMABAD, Nov 13: Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court Tuesday declared “illegal” the criteria set in 2005 by the government for promoting its officers to BPS-20 and BPS-21.

Justice Siddiqui ruled that the award of 15 marks in determining the promotion that the criteria left at the discretion of the Central Selection Board (CSB) of the Establishment Division clashed with a 2010 judgment of the Supreme Court.

The judge gave the ruling on a petition filed by several civil servants that the discretionary marks provided undue benefit to those who superseded them in the promotions.

Previously, the promotions were decided entirely on the basis of the officer's Annual Confidential Report (ACR) and Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs). The share of the reports was reduced to 85 marks on a scale of 100 marks.

The judge directed the concerned authorities to restructure the criteria in line with the Supreme Court judgment on the petitions of civil servants in 2010.

“This order would affect hundreds of officers promoted since 2005 and we would challenge it before the division bench of the IHC, after consulting the Law Ministry,” an Establishment Division official told Dawn.

Justice Siddiqui had given the same ruling in an identical case in February this year. The federal government filed an intra-court appeal against that judgment in May which is pending.

In the case decided on Tuesday, the deputy attorney general Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri informed the court that the promotion policy had been reframed on the Supreme Court's guidelines and requested the court to refer the cases of the petitioners to the Establishment Division for promoting them accordingly.

Under the new policy, the CSB has a nominal role in allocating the 100 marks which would be given to officers on the basis of their ACRs, PERs, trainings and other capabilities, he said. The CSB would consider the officer's seniority, length of service, professional training and PERs in promoting him to next grade.

Last year, the court had maintained status quo on the matter and the CSB did not convene its meeting scheduled for November, the government's law officer recalled.

Consequently, more than 100 officers got retired without promotion and at least 500 others were waiting for their promotions, he said.

Counsel for the petitioners in the case told the court that their clients were up the seniority ladder and otherwise eligible for promotion but were superseded because of the 15 marks at the discretion of the CSB.

They said despite service careers expanding over 33 years and no adverse remarks in their ACRs, the petitioners were ignored in the promotion.

They alleged that by granting less marks to them the CSB had given undue benefit to some officers who had secured less marks.

They claimed that favourites were accorded preferential treatment and promoted to BPS-21.

Some of the petitioners had even earned two highest Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs) for the years 2009 and 2010, their counsel said. The PERs for 2011 were available in October 2011 when the CSB met to decide promotions but were not considered due to mala fide intention, they alleged.

Thus, the respondents violated the provisions of the law and the promotion policy, and thereby Article 4 of the Constitution, according to the counsel.

They pointed out that as per Estacode guidelines for promotion, the Departmental Promotion Committee/ Central Selection Board should consider the cases of eligible civil servants in order of seniority and either recommend a civil servant for promotion to next higher post or recommend supersession; or defer considering his/her promotion, provided that this step will be taken only if the confidential report is incomplete.

The petitioners’ promotion to Grade 21 had not been recommended despite the fact that neither any disciplinary nor departmental proceeding was pending against them nor such record supported by tangible material for the reprehensive act/ reputation of the petitioner was available, their counsel said.

Abdul Rahim Bhatti, the counsel for commissioner Inland Revenue Yousaf Ghaffar Khan, told Dawn that the matter regarding the repute of a civil servant includes in his ACR. He said the CSB could not consider the matter related to character of an officer.

“In case there is a complaint against a civil servant, there is a certain procedure for taking appropriate action. The selection board could not be given power to punish the officer at the time of his promotion,” he said.