HC raps Hry, says IAS officer Ashok Khemka's 'integrity beyond doubt'
Chandigarh: The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday ordered to expunge the "adverse remarks" made by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in the annual performance appraisal report 2016-17 of senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka.
The court observed that Khemka's "integrity is beyond doubt" and that a "person of such professional integrity needs to be protected...".
"...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," said high court division bench of Justices Rajeev Sharma and Kuldip Singh.
Khemka had sought to expunge the "adverse remarks" made by Khattar in his annual performance appraisal report and restoration of the overall grade of 9.92 as was given by state Sports and Youth Affairs minister Anil Vij, who is the reviewing authority.
The 1991-batch bureaucrat, who was posted for nearly 15 months in the Sports and Youth Affairs Department, headed by Vij, was recently transferred and posted as principal secretary of the Haryana Science and Technology Department.
Khemka had approached the court for removal of "adverse remarks" in January this year. The court had later issued a notice to the Haryana government on his plea.
"The remarks of the accepting officer (CM) and the grading of 9 given by the accepting authority are hereby set aside and the opinion given by the reviewing authority (Vij) 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 (chief secretary)," the bench said.
"We are of the considered view that the remarks recorded by the accepting authority (CM) are liable to be expunged. The accepting authority has recorded that the reviewing authority has differed with the reporting authority, but not given any reason for the same.
"However, the same is found to be absolutely incorrect as the reviewing authority has given a brief reasoning recording that the petitioner is well known in the country for effective professional integrity under very difficult circumstances. Even accepting authority has not made any adverse remarks regarding the integrity of the officer," the court observed.
Vij, who was Khemka's reviewing authority, had rated him 9.92 out of 10 for "overall grading on attributes", observing that the IAS officer had shown "excellent achievement" under "severe constraints".
Khattar, who was the appraisal accepting authority, while rating the senior bureaucrat on a scale of 1-10 had given 9 out of 10, which is outstanding. However, he wrote that Vij's report on Khemka was "slightly exaggerated".
"We are of the view that 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.