ISLAMABAD   -   The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday turned down a petition challenging the promotion rules for the civil servants recently introduced by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) government. 

A division bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Lubna Saleem Pervez announced the verdict in a petition filed by Sikandar Hayat Maken and other bureaucrats.  

In their petitions, the petitioners challenged the “Civil Servants Promotion (BPS-18 to BPS-21) Rules, 2019”, terming them contrary to judgements of the superior courts. It was December 3, 2019, when the PTI government promulgated these rules that allowed 30 discretionary marks to CSB members apparently to lift the position of favourite candidates.

The IHC bench noted in its order, “We declare that the Rules of 2019 have been validly framed and have not been found to be inconsistent with the principles and law enunciated in the discussed precedent law. The Board’s proceedings and its affirmation by the competent authority were impartial, unbiased, fair and a result of careful consideration and, thus, judicial interference is not warranted.”  

It maintained, “The petitioners were not able to rebut the presumption of regularity and fairness attached with the proceedings and actions of the Board or the competent authority i.e. the Prime Minister. Consequently, the constitutional petitions in hand are declared to be devoid of merit and thus accordingly dismissed. Likewise, petitions seeking initiation of contempt proceedings also stand dismissed.” 

The new rules suggested that the CSB members would also be free to consider marks on the basis of intelligence reports as it specifically mentioned that for the promotion to top posts, the CSB can take into account the information received against officers. 

These Rules changed the ratio of 100 marks as contrary to the earlier practice, where the CSB had 15 percent marks, the Rules of 2019 doubled the power of the CSB by keeping 30pc marks on the discretion of board. 

Earlier, passing marks for a candidate were 75% for the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) and 72% for the rest of cadres. These could be obtained through outstanding performance and successful completion of professional courses in the National Defence University (NDU) and administrative college. 

There were 50 marks for Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) and 35 for professional courses. If a candidate secured 80pc marks there were chances of his promotion even if the CSB did not give him any mark. 

However, under the recently notified Rules, an officer despite getting 90pc marks of ACRs and courses could not be promoted without obtaining 70 to 80pc marks from the CSB. The division of marks is 40 marks for ACRs, 30 for courses and 30 for the CSB.

The Rules set the minimum threshold of 60 marks for promotion in BS-18, 65 for BS-19, 70 for BS-20 and 75 for BS-21. 

Maken’s petition claimed that “almost all the gazetted officers of the government of Pakistan whose promotions are due in BS-18, BS19, BS-20 and BS-21 are aggrieved by the impugned rules as through these rules vast unbridled powers are conferred upon the CSB and the Department Selection Board (DSB) regarding promotions of the said gazetted officers of the government of Pakistan from BS-18 to BS-21 on the basis of a vague and ambiguous evaluation structure.” 

The petition said that through the recent rules, the government “has also reduced the marks on the basis of the quantification of the Personal Evaluation Reports of the officers concerned from 70 marks to 40 marks and enhanced the evaluation marks by the CSB and DSB from 15 to 30.” 

It said that “the rules confer even more unchecked discretion upon the CSB and DSB.” The petition went on to say that “rules are not in accordance with the principle of due process of law, violative of the fundamental rights of the officers.” 

The IHC bench observed that the counsels for petitioners were not able to show that the form set out in Schedule IV of the Rules of 2019 was in breach of the law enunciated in the case of ‘Dr Mohammad Arif and others’ supra.  

“Likewise, no valid ground was raised before us that would justify declaring the Rules of 2019 as ultra vires. Based on the objective criteria, the service dossier, reports and information placed before the Board, the members, in the case of the petitioners, had collectively evaluated each candidate ‘subjectively’. A court or tribunal is neither adequately equipped nor has the relevant knowledge, experience or means to judicially scrutinize the subjective evaluation made by the Board,” added the court.  

The bench further said that a court cannot curtail the freedom of the competent authority to formulate policy for promotion nor limit its prerogative to prescribe qualifications, conditions, eligibility criteria and the methodology required to be adopted for the purposes of evaluation.