Rejecting the adverse remarks made by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Ashok Khemka’s performance appraisal report, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday said that senior IAS Officer’s “integrity is beyond doubt” and he needs to be protected from the damage being done to his career.
A division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Kuldip Singh said, “We are of the view that a person of such professional integrity needs to be protected as the professional integrity in our political, social and administrative system is depleting very fast.”
The Court further said, “Since number of such officers whose integrity is beyond doubt and who have professional integrity of higher standard is depleting very fast, therefore, they need protection from being damaged by recording adverse remarks against the record.”
Ashok Khemka had sought to expunge the adverse remarks made by Khattar in his annual performance appraisal report (PAR) of the year 2016-2017 and restoration of the overall grade of 9.92 as was given by the Reviewing Authority.
Khemka was represented by advocate Shreenath A Khemka in the matter before the High Court as well as the Central Administrative Tribunal, which in December 2018 had dismissed his application saying the accepting authority, who happens to the State Chief Minister, wrote the appraisal report within the limit prescribed under the rules.
The division bench while setting aside the CAT order said, “The remarks of the Accepting Officer and the grading of 9.00 given by the Accepting Authority are hereby set aside and the opinion given by the Reviewing Authority is restored. The grading of 9.92 given by the Reviewing Authority is also restored and will prevail upon the grading given by the Reporting Authority.”
The division bench further said, “some of the matters are better understood than said in expressed words”.
“The severe constraints in which an honest and upright officer works under the political leadership are well known. There are so many pulls and pressures and the officer has to work according to the rules despite all these pulls and pressures. The Reviewing Authority has recorded that the petitioner is well known in the country for effective professional integrity under very difficult circumstances”.