Uttam Bir Singh Bedi vs. UOI (Madras High Court)

DATE: (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: December 4, 2011 (Date of publication)

Click here to download the judgement (UBS_Bedi_President_ACR_Power.pdf)

The President of the Tribunal has no power to write the Members’ ACR

The Petitioner, a Judicial Member of the Tribunal, was superseded to the post of Vice President by his junior Mr. P. Mohanarajan. The Petitioner claimed that the supersession was on account of adverse Annual Confidential Reports (“ACRs”) written by the President of the Tribunal which had misguided the high level Selection Committee without the Petitioner being giving an opportunity to represent against the ACR. The Petitioner’s challenge before the Central Administrative Tribunal was rejected on the ground that the Selection Committee had decided on the basis of merit. The Petitioner challenged the decision before the High Court and raised two issues: (i) whether the post of Vice President is a promotional post to that of the Member of the ITAT or not? & (ii) whether the President of the ITAT has the authority to record the ACRs of the Members & if so, whether the Government has the right to review the ACRs of the Members? HELD by the High Court:

(i) The Vice Presidents of the Tribunal are appointed from amongst the Members in terms of Rule 7A of the Tribunal Members (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 1963. Under Rule 7C, the criteria for selection is merit. The argument that because there is a merger of the pay scales of the posts of Members and Vice Presidents, there is also a merger of the posts and hence the Members cannot be subjected to selection process is not acceptable. There is only a unification of the pay and not a merger of the posts. Under the scheme of the Act, the post of Vice President is over and above the level of Member & carries higher responsibilities, higher pay band and is definitely a promotional post from that of the Member;

(ii) The Tribunal is a judicial body and while the President exercises administrative control over the Benches, he has no power to write the ACRs of the Members. Further, being a judicial body, the Tribunal should have judicial autonomy and therefore, the Government cannot act like a reviewing authority;

(iii) On merits, the Petitioner’s ACR showed that while he was a hard working and knowledgeable person, he behaved in a rude manner with the colleagues and his rigid tendency and non-adjustable nature had invited many problems, resulting in his frequent transfers. These must have weighed with the Selection Committee. As the ACRs were illegally recorded by the President and reviewed by the Government, the Selection Committee must reconsider the claim of the Petitioner on merits de hors the ACRs;

(iv) On the conduct of the Petitioner, the Court observed that it was “pained” & “disturbed” by the material on record that showed the he was “arrogant” and “would always throw to winds the well established judicial conventions” including “instances of keeping the matters for writing dissenting orders for months together and fighting with the other Members on silly aspects“. It was noted that the Petitioner was “transferring his personal feelings against his colleagues into the orders circulated by them and nurturing unnecessary hatred and ill-feelings” and advice was given that the Petitioner should “mend his ways and conduct himself in a dignified manner and follow the established judicial conventions, so as to maintain the decorum on and off the dais“.

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