Supreme court backs administrative mechanism in IAS officers’ performance appraisal

Case Title: State of Haryana v. Ashok Khemka and anr.

Case No: CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 3959 OF 2024

Dated On: 11 March 2024



On 07.06.2017, Respondent No. 1 an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1991 batch, currently serving as the Principal Secretary in the Government of Haryana submitted his self-appraisal form qua the annual performance appraisal report envisaged under the PAR Rules for the period commencing 08.04.2016 up until 31.03.2017. The PAR involves assessments by different authorities: Reporting Authority (Chief Secretary), Reviewing Authority (Health Minister), and Accepting Authority (Chief Minister). Initially, Respondent No. 1 was graded 8.22 by the Reporting Authority, which was upgraded to 9.92 by the Reviewing Authority. However, the Accepting Authority downgraded the grade to 9, leading to Respondent No. 1 challenging this decision through representation to the accepting authority and subsequent legal actions. Respondent No. 1 filed a representation under Rule 9(2) of the PAR Rules seeking to quash the downgraded remarks and restore the Reviewing Authority’s grades. The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) initially dismissed Respondent No. 1’s application. Subsequently, the High Court set aside the CAT’s decision and reinstated the higher grade awarded by the Reviewing Authority. The State of Haryana appealed to the Supreme Court against the High Court’s decision.


  • whether the High Court ought to have interfered with the CAT Order in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India?


The All-India Services (Performance Appraisal Report) Rules, 2007 (PAR Rules):

Rule 5(1): Prescribes the timeline for recording the performance appraisal report by various authorities.

Rule 9(2): Allows an officer to make a representation against the remarks and overall grading recorded in the PAR.

Rule 9(7B): Requires the Accepting Authority to take a decision on the representation made under Rule 9(2).

Article 226 of the Constitution of India

 Article 226 pertains to the jurisdiction of High Courts to issue writs for enforcement of fundamental rights and for other specified purposes.


Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, Learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Appellant submitted that the timelines prescribed under Rule 5(1) of the PAR Rules were met by the State of Haryana in respect of Respondent No. 1’s PAR. Accordingly, it was submitted that neither any prejudice was caused to Respondent No. 1 merely on account of a delay vis-à-vis the timelines prescribed under Schedule 2 of the Guidelines issued under the PAR Rules nor any grievance was raised by Respondent No. 1 earlier concerning the timelines. They contended that the Accepting Authority (Chief Minister of Haryana) assessed the performance of all senior IAS officers objectively. They asserted that the grade ‘9’ awarded to Respondent No. 1 was sufficient for the purposes of empanelment or promotion, implying that no prejudice was caused. The appellants highlighted that the representation made by Respondent No. 1 under Rule 9(2) of the PAR Rules was pending before the Accepting Authority. They argued that the High Court should not have interfered with the administrative decision before this representation was decided.


Mr. Shreenath A. Khemka, Learned Counsel appearing on behalf of Respondent No. 1, submitted that the timelines prescribed under the All-India Services (Performance Appraisal Report) Rules, 2007 (specifically Rule 5(1) and Rule 9(7B)) are sacrosanct. They contended that any delay beyond these timelines, especially by the Accepting Authority, in revising the grades and remarks awarded by the Reviewing Authority is impermissible. They asserted that the Accepting Authority acted arbitrarily in downgrading the overall grade awarded by the Reviewing Authority from ‘9.92’ to ‘9’. They cited the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Dev Dutt v. Union of India (2008) regarding arbitrary administrative actions. They highlighted that the non-decision on their representation under Rule 9(7B) of the PAR Rules has caused prejudice, especially considering that the officer is nearing the end of their service tenure. They argued that the High Court rightly intervened to correct these procedural and substantive errors. Henceforth they submitted before the Supreme court that the Impugned Order ought not to be set-aside.


The court after hearing the contentions of both the sides and analyzing the PAR rules held that the timelines prescribed under the Schedule have been contravened, i.e. the Accepting Authority populated its remarks and awarded an overall grade on 31.12.2017 i.e., after a delay of 184 (one hundred eighty-four) days. However this delay did not have any immediate consequence. Furthermore, even though the High Court vide the Impugned Order, set-aside the CAT Order, the High Court observed that the timelines prescribed under the Schedule were not water-tight and in fact, were flexible. The court agreed with the contention of the appellant that Respondent No. 1 was awarded an overall grade ‘9’ which undisputedly forms a part of the ‘outstanding’ grade i.e., the highest category awarded to an IAS officer. The court emphasized that the evaluation of an IAS officer requires a depth of expertise and an in-depth understanding of the evaluation matrix, and a high level of competency. The court held that the High Court entered into a specialized domain by evaluating the competency of an IAS officer without the requisite domain expertise and administrative experience and had erred in substituting its own evaluation of the officer’s performance for that of the administrative authorities. Consequently, the court set aside the judgment of the High Court and directed the Accepting Authority (Chief Minister of Haryana) to decide on the officer’s representation within 60 days from the date of the judgment. It granted the officer liberty to pursue further legal remedies after the decision by the Accepting Authority. The appeal was allowed, and pending applications were disposed of with no order as to costs.

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Judgement Reviewed by – PRATYASA MISHRA

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