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HC sets aside Khattar remarks in Khemka’s appraisal report

March 19, 2019 07:09 AM


HC sets aside Khattar remarks in Khemka’s appraisal report


In a huge embarrassment to Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, the Punjab and Haryana high court upheld senior bureaucrat Ashok Khemka’s plea and expunged the adverse remarks made by the CM in his annual confidential appraisal report for 2016-17.

Setting aside Khattar’s remarks, the division bench, comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Kuldip Singh, observed 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 HC said that the number of such officers is depleting very fast, therefore, they need protection from being harmed by adverse remarks. “The remarks recorded by the accepting authority (Haryana CM) are liable to be expunged. The accepting authority has recorded that reviewing authority ( minister Anil Vij) has differed with the reporting authority (the chief secretary) but not given any reason for the same.”

‘Constraints on honest officer are well known’

However, the same is found to be absolutely incorrect as the reviewing authority has given brief reasoning recording that the petitioner is well known in the country for effective professional integrity under very difficult circumstances. Even the accepting authority has not made any adverse remarks regarding the integrity of officer,” the HC held.

Haryana sports and youth affairs minister Anil Vij, Khemka’s reviewing authority, had rated him 9.92 out of 10 for “overall grading on attributes” by observing that “Ashok Khemka has shown excellent achievement under severe constraints.” Vij had added that Khemka “is very innovative and has immense potential which can be utilized better by the government.” The appraisal pertains to the period between April 8, 2016 and March 31, 2017.

The chief minister, who is the appraisal accepting authority, rated the 1991 batch IAS officer 9 out of 10, which is outstanding. However, he wrote that Vij’s report on Khemka is “slightly exaggerated” and added the reviewing authority or the officer himself had not specified any constraint. His remarks and grading were both set aside by the HC and the division bench clarified that the opinion and grading of 9.92 given by Vij, Khemka’s reviewing authority, would prevail upon the grading given by the reporting authority.

Commenting on the issue of constraints, the high court ruled: “Some of the matters are better understood than said in 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.”

Khemka had moved the HC and sought directions to the CM to restore his rating as 9.92 and to expunge Khattar’s adverse remarks. Despite the outstanding rating of 9/10, Khattar’s remarks would have ensured Khemka was not considered for elevation to the next level — the post of additional secretary in the central government— Only 20% officers from a batch of IAS officers are considered for the higher scale of additional secretary and due to these remarks Khemka may have lost out on chance to advance to next level of his career.

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