After the Punjab and Haryana High Court set aside Haryana Chief Minister’s “reduced grading” to senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka in his Performance Appraisal Report (PAR) for the year 2016-17, Manohar Lal Khattar has now “refrained” from giving any grading in the IAS officer’s PAR for the year 2018-19. The CM is the final authority to rate IAS officers.
Refusing to give any grading to Khemka in his PAR for 2018-19, Khattar on September 30, 2019, wrote: “In view of the fact that my well considered comments in the officer’s PAR for 2016-17 as Accepting Authority are still subjudice in the Hon’ble Supreme Court, I refrain from recording my comments at this stage.”
Replying to Khattar’s remarks in his PAR, Khemka on October 1, 2019 wrote that he not only “respects” Khattar’s “considered decision”, and added, “The effect of your wilful abstention from duty means that the appraisal by the Reviewing Authority has attained finality qua the aforesaid PAR.”
For PAR of the year 2018-19, Khemka was given a grading of 8.53 by the then Chief Secretary D S Dhesi as his Reporting Authority, on June 23 - barely a week before Dhesi retired. However, the then Minister of Science and Technology Anil Vij, while acting as the Reviewing Authority, overruled Dhesi’s grading and awarded an overall grading of 9.97 to Khemka on August 1, 2019.
“The pen picture drawn by the Reporting Authority is self-contradictory. The remark that there was no remarkable achievement during the year shows latent bias of the Reporting Authority against the officer reported upon. There were remarkable achievements during the year which are highlighted at serial nos. 1, 2, 3, 4,5 of the self-appraisal and unrebutted by the Reporting Officer. The irregularities going on in the Department in the distribution of cash awards to sports persons prior to his joining were detected and stopped by him,” Vij recorded his comments in Khemka’s PAR while overruling Dhesi’s grading given to Khemka.
Khattar, being the Accepting Authority too had to give his grading in Khemka’s PAR for the period from April 1, 2018 to March 11, 2019. But, Khattar refrained from giving any grading citing a legal dispute on Khemka’s PAR grading given by Khattar for the year 2016-17.
For the last few years, Khemka had been struggling to get his PAR gradings. In his PAR for the year 2016-17, Khattar while acting as the Accepting Authority had reduced Khemka’s grading to 9 from 9.92 given by the Reviewing Authority - the then Science and Technology Minister, Anil Vij. Khemka had challenged Khattar’s adverse remarks in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
On March 18, 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Kuldip Singh had 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 was given by the Reviewing Authority is also restored and will prevail upon the grading given by the Reporting Authority. Accordingly, the petition is allowed”.
The division bench added, “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”, adding, “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.”
The Haryana government, however, challenged High Court’s order in the Supreme Court. A three-judge bench headed by the then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had issued notice to IAS officer Ashok Khemka on July 12 to file a response on the Special Leave Petition filed by the state government. Although the reply was submitted by the officer, but case is yet to be taken up again in the Supreme Court.
Citing the pendency of the same case, the Chief Minister has this time “refrained” from giving any grading to the officer.