Saturday December 09, 2023

SHC orders investigation into BoR official’s regularisation issue

March 20, 2023

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the provincial government to investigate the Board of Revenue’s (BoR) allegations in the matter of regularisation of a legal assistant, and has restrained the government from dispensing the official’s services in the intervening period.

The direction came on a petition filed by Ghulam Shabbir Sheikh, who challenged the decision taken by the province’s chief minister through a January 23, 2020, summary, whereby the regularisation of services of the petitioner as legal assistant (second capacity) at the BoR was withdrawn.

His counsel said that the impugned approval of the CM was in violation of Article 10-A because his client was appointed as legal assistant (second capacity) at the BoR Sindh on a contractual basis vide a July 28, 2010, notification.

He added that subsequently, his client’s services were regularised in BPS-18 with the approval of the competent authority through a notification issued on December 15, 2011.

He said the BoR had floated a summary for the approval of the competent authority suggesting that his client’s services were unauthorised and erroneously regularised by the then CM, while an attempt was made to serve the petitioner with a show-cause notice for terminating his regular services.

He added that the summary floated by the BoR had been wrongly approved by the CM on the administrative side in deviation from the services law with the sole objective to appoint a blue-eyed boy in place of his client.

The additional advocate general said the petitioner did not have any vested right to seek appointment on a regular basis in BPS-18 at the BoR or had otherwise acquired any legal right to be appointed on contract by the CM.

He said the government was not bound to continue the petitioner’s appointment on a regular basis in BPS-18, a post that ought to be filled through the competitive process, so the petitioner’s request against the government’s decision could not be granted.

He added that the petitioner’s regularisation was illegal and without lawful authority because the order of regularisation of service was obtained by misleading the then CM.

After hearing the arguments, an SHC division bench comprising Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Adnanul Karim Memon said the petitioner ought not to have been condemned unheard and should have been allowed the opportunity of hearing while endorsing the viewpoint of the respondent department.

The judges said that at the same time, they are cognisant of the fact that even the initial appointment to the public post should be made after inviting applications publicly and through the competitive process.

The bench said that the question before the court was if the petitioner’s services could be dispensed with through a summary floated for the CM by the Land Utilisation Department (LUD) secretary on the plea that the services had been unauthorised and erroneously regularised in 2012 by the then CM.

The court said that prima facie, the impugned order in the instant case has not been passed by the competent authority under the Sindh Civil Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 1974.

The bench said that primarily, the summary approved by the CM was based on the viewpoint put forward by the LUD secretary on the administrative side.

The court said that prima facie, it was a conscious decision taken by the government at the relevant point in time, and at this stage, the respondent department was raising a hue and cry on the aforesaid analogy.

The bench said that it would refrain from commenting on the manner and method by which the petitioner had been appointed on contract and then regularised in BPS-18.

The court said that if the petitioner was found to be incompetent, as contended by the provincial law officer, why was his case not departmentally pursued by the respondent under the relevant laws, while at the same time he was allowed to continue his services since 2010 on a regular basis.

The bench said that all of sudden in 2020, the BoR woke up from a deep slumber and saw it fit to float a summary for approval to shift their just burden, which was apathy on their part under the law.

The court referred the petitioner’s regularisation matter to the competent authority to investigate the BoR’s allegations within a reasonable time, saying that it should be subject to a regular mode of inquiry as provided under the civil servants rules, and ordered that the petitioner’s services not be dispensed with in the intervening period.