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Above: A team of Haryana Civil Services (HCS) officers; HCS officers will also be affected by the new rules/Photo: #ManaAmaravati _twitter

The Haryana government has framed new rules to prematurely retire inefficient employees and terminate those found corrupt, but with polls nearing, can they be implemented?

By Vipin Pubby in Chandigarh

With no less than 49 amendments and clarifications to the rules pertaining to action that can be taken against corrupt and inefficient Haryana government employees, it had become a Herculean task for officers to weed out “undesirable” employees. This has prompted the state government to frame rules under existing laws which will supersede all past notifications that were issued to either clarify or specify rules relating to “dead wood” or corrupt employees.

Lakhs of state government employees, including Haryana Civil Services (HCS) officers, are likely to be affected by the new instructions. While the government says the idea is to remove ambiguities and cut down on delay in taking action, employees feel the new rules give wide arbitrary powers to the officers who can misuse them against employees who may not be in their good books.

The detailed 20-page policy report has said that state government officers of the age of 50 or above, or who have completed 25 years of service can now be sent home if their integrity is found doubtful, or if they have become “inefficient” they can be sent on premature retirement in “public interest”.

One of the parameters specified to doubt the integrity of an employee is, if over the past 10 years, he or she does not have at least 50 percent Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) as “good” or above. Further, and what has irked employees even more, the personal files of such employees would now be taken into consideration while initiating any action.

Justifying the new rules, a Haryana government spokesperson said that the 49 “instructions” that were issued occasionally in this regard from 1955 had been causing confusion and several “shady” employees would quote one instruction or the other to delay action proposed against them. The fresh parameters are intended to clarify doubts raised by administrative secretaries and heads of various departments in adopting the procedures to prematurely retire a government employee, the spokesperson added.

The move to clarify and redefine the rules was initiated last year keeping in mind various Supreme Court and High Court judgments passed over the last few years on premature retirement. This was after several employees whose services were prematurely terminated moved the courts, which have been giving guidelines to various state governments to clarify their rules.

A committee of senior officers held a series of meetings to draft new rules under the existing laws. The committee noted that a number of employees with doubtful integrity or gross inefficiency were able to get off the hook because of the ambiguities or even contradictions in the rules which have been amended over the past several decades. The committee recommended: “A government employee whose integrity has been doubted during last 10 years of service will be retired prematurely. However, the doubtful integrity during the period of service before last 10 years will be ignored.”

Referring to the ACRs, the new policy said: “Service record of the last 10 years should be taken into account and out of this, 50 percent of Annual Confidential Reports in case of retention beyond 50 years, and 70 percent of ACRs in case of retention beyond 55 years or on completion of 25 years of qualifying service, should be ‘good’ or above.”

While clarifying what constitutes “inefficiency”, the policy said: “No employee should ordinarily be retired on the grounds of ineffectiveness if his service during the preceding five years, or where he has been promoted to a higher post during the five-year period, his service in the promotional post has been found satisfactory”. It further said that “doubts may have arisen relating to the bona fide nature of action taken by the officer, but on account of inadequate proof, it may not have been possible to initiate action for a regular departmental inquiry, leading finally to a punishment of the nature that may find entry in the ACRs of the officer/official”.

Going a step further, the new rules specify that the “personal file of the officer/official may have details on the nature of doubt that arose regarding the integrity of the officer and the result of the preliminary investigation that was carried out. Matters found on personal files can and should also therefore be placed before the Administrative Departments/ Officers’ Committee and not only the ACRs of the officers/official concerned”.

While questions have been raised about whether this move was based on any recommendations of the Administrative Reforms Commission which looks into the public administration system, sources said that the Commission’s recommendations apply only to all-India services such as the IAS, etc. The new amendments are meant only for Haryana Civil Services and other subordinate staff.

The new rules have drawn the ire of state employees and organisations representing them. Subhash Lamba, general secretary of Sarv Karamchari Sangh, Haryana, said that the new rules would be opposed tooth and nail by the employees. He said these were only aimed at dismissing employees and their leaders who had been raising genuine demands of the employees from time to time. He claimed that the new rules were only a ploy to get rid of what the government considers “inconvenient” employees. Stating that the new rules have placed wide powers at the disposal of senior officers, Lamba said there was no need to amend service rules existing for the last so many years. The Sangh, he added, would intensify its agitation if the government did not withdraw the amendments.

With elections for the Haryana assembly on the horizon, the government would find it difficult to deal with the wrath of the large contingent of government employees who constitute a significant vote bank. Insiders say the amendments had been done by bureaucrats without factoring in the political fallout. A ruling party leader, who did not want to be identified, said that the government would have to do some rethinking if it was not able to convince the emp­loy­ees about the rationale for the new rules.

Looking before one leaps can be good advice for the Haryana government.

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