The Madras High Court has upheld the validity of the Centre’s 360° appraisal system to assess the performance of IAS officers.

The Madras High Court has upheld the validity of the 360-degree appraisal/multi-source feedback system introduced by the Center in 2016 to evaluate the performance of All India Service officers empaneled in state government service so that they can apply for the vacancies. It is generated under the Government of India (GOI).

Justices VM Velumani and V. Lakshminarayanan dismissed a writ petition filed by Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Dayanand Kataria challenging the 360-degree appraisal system. However, the judges refrained from imposing costs on the petitioner “because an interesting question of law was framed and argued.”

According to Mr Kataria, he belonged to the 1989 batch of the Tamil Nadu cadre and was enlisted in 2012 to serve as a Joint Secretary-level officer under the Government of India. Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.

He would go on to be listed as an additional secretary and then secretary in later years. However, this did not happen due to the introduction of the Multi Source Feedback System, under which the government had decided to seek feedback on individual officers from seniors, peers, juniors, external stakeholders and serving secretaries.

Therefore, he had approached the court to declare the 360 ​​degree evaluation system as illegal, void and violative of the principles of natural justice. The bench said that finding no merit in her plea, it did not find any illegality in deciding to assess the performance of an officer by looking beyond the Annual Confidential Report (ACR).

An expert committee was constituted to obtain inputs on well-defined qualities such as decisiveness and quality of work about an officer from his superiors, peers and juniors; Willingness and moral courage to take responsibility; innovation, initiative and risk-taking ability; patience and problem-solving skills; a team player and so on.

“If an employer desires certain qualities in its employees, particularly at the senior level, it cannot be said to be arbitrary. It cannot by any stretch of the imagination be said to be vague. Further, as Submitted by Additional Solicitor General A.R.L. Sundaresan, the report of the expert committee is not final,” the bench wrote.

Writing the judgment, Justice Lakshminarayanan said the report of the expert committee was only an additional input and not everything with regard to empanelment. There was also a separate review panel that would conduct an independent assessment and file a report to the Special Committee of Secretaries (SCOS).

The SCOS, in turn, assists the Cabinet Secretary in reviewing the matter and placing it before the Cabinet Committee on Appointments, which was the final authority to prepare the list of empanelment. “Therefore, the apprehension of the writ petitioner that the expert panel may act in an arbitrary manner is also allayed,” the bench said.

Pointing out that the ACR was also being taken into account, the judges concluded by saying: “While competency may be a subject of judicial review, suitability certainly is not. What and how the government may deem fit to its needs.” identifies people, it is not judicially reviewable unless it is arbitrary and in violation of the Constitution or statutory rules.