Huzaima Bukhari and Dr Ikramul Haq
In continuation of our earlier article and in response to objections raised by officers belonging to the Income Tax Officers (ITO) batch, the points are further elaborated below to show that there is urgent need of weeding out deadwood from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) despite the fact that they won their cases of seniority in the courts.
Our earlier article [Weeding out “deadwood”, Business Recorder, April 30, 2021] was written on the basis of facts, along with necessary documentary evidence available with FBR. Therefore, it does not cause any kind of prejudice to any employee of FBR. Rather, this pertains to induction of unqualified people in the critical policy-making positions in FBR’s top hierarchy.
It is an irrefutable fact that post advertised by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) of lower scale non-CSS slots attract more applicants as compared with institutionally recognised Central Superior Services (CSS) examination, held annually, where candidates apply on all Pakistan basis for entering into various cadres for which recruitment is required on the demand of Establishment Division, Islamabad. Therefore, their number is usually less.
For non-CSS posts, below grade 17, if 70,000 people apply for BS-16 positions in FBR, this does not qualify them to get seniority at par with CSS officers. Obviously, their first priority was to join FBR whereas CSS officers usually place IRS at number 4th or 5th in their preference, in some case even lower. No other Occupational Service or Group has allowed such inductions to officers except Inland Revenue Service (IRS) of FBR. Some Occupational Groups allow such inductions to highly experienced officers when they are close to their retirements. Therefore, it is necessary to timely retire the ITOs batch so that the top administrative positions are not held by officers not entering the service through CSS examination. This will be patently against the law and certainly going to cause an irreparable loss to a vital institution that collects revenues out of which 57.5 percent goes to the provinces under the prevailing National Finance (NFC) Award under Article 160 of the Constitution. Revenue generation at the moment is the most important need to meeting the challenge of burgeoning fiscal deficit and monstrous debt reaching the level of 88 percent of GDP.
It was clearly mentioned in Weeding out “deadwood” [Business Recorder, April 30] that the ITOs batch was promoted at a very young age as Assistant Commissioner Inland Revenue in violation of rules and in excess of their approved quota. The 25 per cent quota is meant for all promoted officers including BS-16 Inland Revenue Officers (IROs) and other eligible officers from ranks. However, only the ITOs batch was promoted and inducted into the main IRS cadre which is unprecedented in the history of Civil Service of Pakistan. This was indeed a “backdoor channel”.
As per the record available with FPSC, most of the ITOs batch officers could not qualify the CSS examination. These factors put a question mark on their abilities to hold senior most positions in FBR.
As far as the service of ITOs batch in Military Lands and Cantonment (ML&CG) is concerned, it also brought big embarrassment to FBR as their nominations were actually illegal. The basic facts are as follows.
- After the military coup by General Pervez Musharraf, the induction into ML&CG and Office Management Group (OMG) was halted. The ML&CG, therefore, sought the requisition of suitable officers from various Occupational Groups and Services in 2006 for their induction as Cantonment Executive Officers (CEOs) on deputation basis.
- The above clearly meant that the CEO slots were for the CSS officers from other service groups. However, the ITOs batch managed to get nominations from FBR and joined the ML&CG on deputation basis.
- After a few years, the ITOs batch tried to induct themselves in the ML&CG on regular basis. When their case was forwarded to the Director General (ML&CG) and Secretary (Establishment), they were shocked to observe that this batch was a bunch of non-CSS officers who not only served in the ML&CG illegally but were also trying to get themselves inducted into ML&CG on regular basis. They were immediately repatriated to FBR and both the DG (ML&CG) and Secretary (Establishment) categorically refused to induct them in the ML&CG as only CSS officers were eligible for such induction. If the ITOs batch was not inducted into the ML&CG, how could they get inducted into IRS main cadre? This was a shear, rather blatant, violation of service rules and a “backdoor” induction into a CSS cadre.
Getting necessary departmental trainings such as Mid-Career Management Course (MCMC) and Senior Management Course (SMC) becomes meaningless when the very induction of officers was for non-CSS cadre. It is a well-established maxim that if the foundation of any action is unlawful, the subsequent actions have no sanctity—if the foundation is unlawful, the superstructure collapses as well. The mere completion of MCMC and/or SMC does not qualify the ITOs batch for induction into senior BS-20 slots. Such courses are attended and completed by many employees of the federal government who are not part of regular CSS cadre.
The Government must take note of the above and it they are not weeded out at this stage, the senior administration of FBR will be held by non-CSS officers just in a year or two. This is no less than a catastrophe for the coalition Government of Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf (PTI), led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was elected on the slogan of establishing rule of law and justice.
As far as judicial proceedings are concerned, there is always room for revisiting by the Supreme Court as the apex court is not slave of its own order. In a case reported as Shahid Pervaiz v Ejaz Ahmad and others 2017 SCMR 206, the Supreme Court of Pakistan held as under:
“This Court in the case of Hitachi Limited v Rupali Polyester (1998 SCMR 1618), has concluded that the Supreme Court is not a slave of doctrine of stare decisis and can change or modify its view with the passage of time. All the courts and public institutions are bound to follow the principles laid down by this Court. No exception to this principle can be created under the garb of rule or procedural niceties”.
The above judgement of the Supreme Court is binding under Article 189 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The above facts and legal position clearly establish that the promotion of ITOs batch to BS-20 as Commissioners is not all justified and the PTI government must retire them prematurely as provided in the Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rules, 2020, notified on April 15, 2020. Any officer removed under these rules will have opportunity under Rule 8, which reads as under:
8. Right of appeal or review.—A civil servant against whom an order for directory retirement is passed by the competent authority shall have the right of appeal or, as the case may be, review in accordance with the Civil Servants (Appeal) Rules, 1977.
In case, they are promoted to BS-20, the senior leadership of FBR will be in the hands of non-CSS officers in utter violation of the law of the land. If necessary action is not taken now, it will be too late and its horrendous impacts will keep resonating in FBR for decades.
The writers, lawyers and partners of Huzaima, Ikram & Ijaz, are Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), members Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellows of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)