ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday declared the illegal promotion of 80 BS-20 to 21 officers as null and void and ordered the government to undertake an exercise to outline the objective criteria for promotion to make the civil servant an honest officer and free from political pressure.

The PPP-led government during the last month of its tenure made the out-of-turn promotions of senior bureaucrats, which were challenged by noted columnist Orya Maqbool Jan, a petitioner.

The promotions were made in the tenure of former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and were approved by Secretary Establishment Taimur Azmat Usman. The 40-page judgment authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry directed the government to set up the board again to promote officers on merit.

“The promotion from BS-20 to 21 against available vacancies has to be made in accordance with reserved quota for the promotion of different groups i.e. PAS, Secretariat etc., as a result whereof instead of cancelling the promotion of the officers from Sr. No.57 to 80 all cases of promotion against 88 vacancies of BS-21 is hereby cancelled being void and unlawful”, says the judgment.

The court ordered that fresh exercise has to be undertaken along with the cases of the civil servants, which have been remanded by the Lahore High Court in Liaqat Ali Chugtai’s case (PLD 2013 Lahore 413) and the cases decided Islamabd High Court in W.P. No. 3483/2011.

The Court also set aside the notification of promotion of all the officers issued in pursuance of the recommendations of CSB held on 11th-14th February and 27th February, 2013 with direction to the competent authority to undertake the process of the promotion to all of them strictly in accordance with law on merits under Section 9 of the Civil Servants Act, 1973, read with rules 7, 7A and 8 of the Civil Servants (Appointments, Promotions and Transfers) Rules, 1973 as well as Promotion Policy as amended upto date, vide O.M. dated 13.1.2013.

The also court directed the government to undertake exercise to outline the objective criteria for promotion to make the civil servant an honest officer and free from political pressure.

The court observed that the role of officers relating to the management in Government of Pakistan, notwithstanding whether they belong to PAS or Secretariat Group or any other group, fact remains that individuals of such cadre play a decisive role in shaping the destiny of the nation.

The court cited the speech of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah delivered in April, 1948, to the civil officers in Peshawar asking the bureaucrats that they should never be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or any individual politician.

“If you want to raise the prestige and greatness of Pakistan you must not fall victim to any pressure but do your duty as servants of the people and the state, fearlessly and honestly,” the judgment quoted father of the nation as saying.  In the said speech, the father of the nation had asked the civil servents that they should have no hand in supporting this political party or that political party, this political leader or that political leader. “This is not your business,” said the father of nation.

The petitioner had approached the apex court  under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 for the enforcement of fundamental rights, involving question of public importance of outlining an objective criteria for promotions to make the civil service rewarding for honest officers and free from political pressures.

He had complained to the court about non-recommendation of his name, along with so many other officers, for promotion from BPS 20 to 21, by the Central Selection Board (CSB), in its meeting held on 11-14.02.2013 and 27.02.2013.

The petitioner had claimed that he along with other officers were eligible for promotion but their cases were deferred or postponed for want of transparent objective criteria embodied in principle of rewarding honest officers instead of penalizing them by withholding their due rights contrary to Articles 3, 9 and 14 of the Constitution.

He had prayed to the apex court that a free and fair enquiry of the assets of the Civil Servants in promotion zone and their families by comparing with their assets at the time when they joined the service.

“Their life style, expense on children education, expenses on children marriages, foreign tours etc., should be taken into account to measure the level of corruption and honestly,” the petitioner had submitted, adding that the inquiry should be made by an independent body or commission constituted by the apex court. The assets of all the Civil Servants should be open for public scrutiny.

He had further prayed that to check the political affiliations and to make the bureaucracy free and fair from political affiliations; efficiency should be linked with the level of independence an officer has secured during his service. He had further prayed that the entire career records of each Civil Servant should be scrutinized before promotion, to check as who enjoyed better posting in which political party’s tenure.

“This will certainly present a clear picture of a majority of civil servants divided/loyal with different political groups, leaving a few independent and honourable officers aside,” the petitioner had contended.

Orya Maqbool Abbasi, joined government service on 18.10.1984 in the District Management Group (now “Pakistan Administrative Service” (PAS)).

He was promoted to BPS 18 in the year 1990, BPS 19 in the year 1998 and BPS 20 in the year 2006. For the purpose of promotion of the petitioner along with others from grade 20 to 21, a meeting of Central Selection Board (CSB) was held on 03.10.2011, but the petitioner among others was not recommended for promotion.