Representation Invalidly Rejected: SC Upholds HC's Order Directing To Reassess Suitability Of Employee For Grant Of SAG
In a service matter, the Supreme Court has upheld the Rajasthan High Court's order directing the Department to reassess the suitability of the Respondent for the purpose of grant of Senior Administrative Grade (SAG).
The Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice BV Nagarathna while dismissing the appeal of the Union of India observed –
"…no valid reasons are given for rejecting the representation, we are of the opinion that in view of the aforesaid facts and circumstances, the learned Tribunal and the High Court have not committed any error in directing the Department to call for a review meeting of the Screening Committee to re-assess the suitability of the respondent for the purpose of grant of SAG and while doing so to exclude the ACR for the year 2007-2008."
In this case, the Respondent was posted as Deputy General Manager of BSNL, Sikar. His ACR grading was "Very Good" for the years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. However, for the years 2007-2008, his ACR grading was only "Good" and the same was communicated to him. The Respondent was informed that if he was not satisfied with the same, he may submit his representation to the General Manager, Telecom. The Respondent accordingly submitted a representation.
It was the case on behalf of the respondent that he got ACR grading as "Very Good" for the years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, however, for the year 2007-2008, he got ACR grading as only "Good", despite the fact that in all the three years, the reporting officer and the reviewing authority was same.
It was also the case on behalf of the respondent that despite there being no deficiency or inefficiency in the performance of his work, the Reviewing Officer erroneously rated him "Good" in the ACR of the year 2007-2008, instead of "Very Good", as was given to him in ACRs of previous two years.
The representation of the Respondent was rejected. He was found to be ineligible by the Department on the ground of the grading he received for the year 2007-08.
The Respondent approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) contending that his grading as "Good" in the year 2007-2008 and rejection of his representation against the below benchmark was arbitrary and unjustified in as much as no shortcomings in his work during the period in question was ever brought to his notice.
The Tribunal set aside the rejection of the representation of the Respondent and directed the case for review and reconsider him.
Aggrieved, the Union of India preferred an appeal before the High Court which was dismissed.
The Union of India and others then preferred an appeal before the Supreme Court.
ASG Madhavi Divan appeared for the Union of India while Counsel Mukesh Kumar appeared for the Respondent before the Court.
The Apex Court noted, "On perusal of what has been extracted by the Tribunal from the ACRs of 2005-06, we note that the respondent has been graded as "Very Good" since he has very good knowledge in technical field as well as of administrative matters; willing to assume responsibility; has good organizing capability; motivating ability and timely and proper guidance giving capability. The respondent has the capacity/resourcefulness to anticipate problems in advance as well as unforeseen situations. He has very good quality decision-making ability and is able to weigh pros and cons of alternatives and good capability of communication and present arguments in oral and written manner and good skill and capacity of evaluating and recording performance of subordinates in an impartial and objective manner."
The Court further also noted, "Similarly in the remarks for the year 2006-07, it has been written that the respondent has very good technical knowledge as well as administrative knowledge. He has very good organizing capacity and was able to motivate and provide timely and proper guidance to subordinates. He has good skill and capacity in evaluating and recording performance of subordinates in an impartial and objective manner."
While referring to the ACR grading of the year 2007-08, the Court noted-
"As against the aforesaid favourable remarks for the previous two years, in the year 2007-08 it has been stated that though the technical knowledge of the respondent is good, his financial and administrative knowledge is poor; that he has hardly understood the environment in anticipating change; that he was never willing to assume responsibility, and had poor organising capacity and cannot anticipate problems and unforeseen situations and does not take additional responsibility and has poor decision-making quality and average ability in communication and presenting case problems."
Thus, the Court held, "Therefore, in view of the above and in the facts and circumstances of the case and considering the fact that though the respondent was graded as "Very Good" in the ACRs for the years 2005-2006 and 2006- 2007 and was graded only "Good" in the ACR for the year 2007-2008 by the very same reporting and reviewing officer, despite the fact that specifically the respondent was given the opportunity against the ACR for the year 2007-2008."
The Court thus upheld the order of the High Court directing the Department to call for a review meeting of the Screening Committee to re-assess the suitability of the respondent for the purpose of grant of SAG and while doing so to exclude the ACR for the year 2007-2008 and dismissed the appeal.
Cause Title – Union of India & Ors. v. G.R. Meghwal