In order to maintain a high standard of efficiency in governance, the Centre has asked all states to review the working of all-India service officers so that non-performing officials could be retired from services.
The Department of Personnel and Training, in a missive, has asked for the review of Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers, who have completed at least 15 years of service.
"A member of the all-India service who has completed 15 years of qualifying service or has completed 25 years of qualifying service or attained the age of 50 years will, invariably, be found to occupy a senior administrative post.
"It would not be acceptable to find that such a member has become a mere passenger in the senior level in which he or she is placed. One must always guard against the operation of the 'Peter Principle'," Dr SK Sarkar, Additional Secretary in the DoPT, said.
The 'Peter Principle', coined by psychologist Laurence J Peter and Raymond Hull in 1969, is a belief that in an organisation where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, the employees there will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability.
In common parlance, the principle is also phrased as "employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence".
In January, the Centre had amended Rule 16 (3) of all-India services rule which allowed a performance review only after completion of 30 years of qualifying service.
The new rules gives powers to the government to give retirement to these officers in "public interest" after at least 15 years in the job. The government can again carry out such review after the officer completes 25 years of service or attains the age of 50 years.
It is sometimes found that a few members of the all-India services tend to become mere "passengers" in the post or at the level in which a member is placed for the time being, the directive said.
The DoPT also raised doubts on the efficiency of officers where the overall grade or assessment were mentioned as "average" in the Annual Confidential Report or Performance Appraisal Report.
"To describe a member of an all-India service as average is not complimentary. While it may not be an adverse remark, it is nevertheless a reflection upon his work or conduct and should be taken to indicate output, which is ordinary and routine," the DoPT said in its circular issued to all chief secretaries of the states and Union Territories.
It said that remarks like 'adequate' and 'satisfactory' over a period of 5-7 years, without mention of any notable achievement, would also indicate that the member has reached a plateau.
"Similarly, it is found that in some cases, a member of an all-India service receives a lukewarm or equivocal certificate of integrity. Such an entry would indicate that there is some doubt in the mind of the reporting or reviewing authority about the integrity of the member.
"In all such cases, it would be quite appropriate for the government to examine the matter thoroughly in order to decide whether action under Rule 16(3) of AIS (DCRB) Rules, 1958 would be warranted," it said.
Additionally, there may be officers who may have completed 16 years or more of qualifying service but their review was not carried out as the rule has been amended recently.
"Therefore, a review is required to be carried out by the state governments in respect of the officers who have completed qualifying service of 16-23 years and the recommendations of the respective state governments may be sent to the Central government for further necessary action within six months of the issuance of this letter," it added.