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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) turned down the petitions challenging the Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rules, 2020, about forced retirement of the civil servants.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard the petitions filed by three senior bureaucrats including BS-21 officer Ahmed Hanif Orakzai, former deputy director of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Sheikh Zafar and Mohsin Shah, and dismissed the same by terming the rules as in accordance with the law.

Justice Kayani, in his 37-page verdict, said the federal government could better examine matters related to promotion and retirement of the civil servants and the courts should not interfere in the government’s policy matter.

The petitioners challenged the promulgation of the Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rules, 2020, concerning directory retirement of civil servants after completion of 20 years of service, qualifying for pension and other retirement benefits.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has introduced the Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rules, 2020 to get rid of “incompetent” officers.

These rules have enabled the retirement board/committee to prematurely retire those officers who earned average performance evaluation reports (PERs, formerly known as ACRs) or adverse remarks; twice recommended for super session by the Central Selection Board, Departmental Selection Board or Departmental Promotion Board or twice not recommended for promotion by the high-powered selection board.

The IHC bench rejected the petitions saying that the rules cannot be challenged by the civil servants because it was not against fundamental rights. The judge further said that the civil servants had no authority to challenge the government policy matters.

According to the court judgment, “The impugned Rules have been made by the competent authority backed by the law and are in consonance with the parameters of the constitutional framework which could not be interfered with at the touchstone of judicial review.”

It further said that fundamental rights of the civil servants and under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, no vested right is available to the civil servants to challenge this policy matter where rules have been framed within the scope of law.

The IHC bench maintained that it was a settled proposition that the competent authority – the federal government – was in a better position to settle requirements to engage services of a civil servant in the public interest. It added that this executive discretion could not be interfered with. It further said that if the vires of the same (law) were challenged, the burden is always upon the person making such a challenge to show that the same (law) was violative of any of the fundamental rights or provision of the Constitution.

The court mentioned that Section 13 of the Civil Servants Act, 1973, has a checkered history, where Section 13(1) was initially enacted without any prescribed rule to deal with the situation that a civil servant shall retire from service after completion of 20 years of service qualifying for pension and other retirement benefits, as such, the Establishment Division issued guidelines for review of cases of civil servants by Review Committee on certain parameters, whereby a civil servant is recommended for retirement in cases where two or more penalties have been imposed upon him under the Government Servant (Efficiency & Discipline) Rules, 1973.

The bench held that it is not a vested right of a civil servant to serve after completion of his 20 years of service till age of superannuation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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