Can a superior officer downgrade the annual confidential records (ACRs) of a government employee without consulting him/her?
The Supreme Court has decided to examine the contentious issue that haunts lakhs of government employees across the country each year, as bosses often appraise the performance of their subordinates without consulting them.
On a petition filed by an army man, Ashok Kumar, a bench headed by Justice VS Sirpurkar has issued notices to the Chief of Army Staff and the Ministry of Defence asking them to spell out their stand on the issue within four weeks.
Kumar, who joined the Indian Army on May 6, 1985 and had an “unblemished” track record for 24 years, challenged his superior authorities’ decision to downgrade his ACR on the ground that they did not hear him and went on to downgrade his ACRs in an arbitrary fashion without assigning any reason.
He alleged the downgrading of ACRs was done by his superior officer, Capt Sanjay Kumar, due to personal reasons and with malafide intention to deprive him of further promotion. Kumar said due to his sheer dedication and honesty, he was promoted from the post of Operator to the rank of a Naik and thereafter as Havildar in 1994.
He alleged that despite his “best performance”, his ACR was suddenly downgraded for 2004-2005, following his posting to the Delhi Area Sig Coy in July 2004. His subsequent ACRs for 2006-2007 were also downgraded to ‘below average’ despite obtaining a “bravo grading” in qualifying test conducted in February 2008, Kumar alleged.
Now the court would examine if it was mandatory to inform an employee about his ACRs being downgraded and, if so, can it be done without giving any reason.
Obliged to disclose Adverse Remarks
Earlier, the SC had in May 2008 ruled that it was mandatory for the authorities to disclose all contents of ACRs to the employee concerned. It had rejected the Centre’s argument that it was under an obligation only to disclose the “adverse remarks” against an employee.
“We do not agree. In our opinion every entry must be communicated to the employee concerned so that he may have an opportunity of making a representation against it if he is aggrieved,” SC had said in a judgement upholding the appeal filed by a government employee Dev Dutt.
“…We are developing the principles of natural justice by holding that fairness and transparency in public administration requires that all entries (whether poor, fair, average, good or very good) in the annual confidential report of a public servant, whether in civil, judicial, police or any other State services (except in military), must be communicated to him within a reasonable period,” the court had said.
The May 2008 ruling was limited to disclosure of ACRs and it did not make it mandatory for the authorities to consult the subordinates before writing ACRs. The apex court’s ruling on prior consultation with employees will make the performance appraisal process even more transparent and accountable.