New Delhi: The lockdown has delayed annual appraisals in the government and put on hold all action regarding ongoing disciplinary action against bureaucrats with timelines for completion of inquiries or responding to notices being relaxed.

With the entire bureaucracy overwhelmed to counter the COVID-19 crisis, both these key activities in the government have taken a back-seat for now, as per orders issued by the government on Monday. “Consequent upon the outbreak of COVID-19 and considering the unprecedented situation of the lockdown with effect from March 24, it may not be feasible to adhere to the timelines prescribed in the (said) rules. It has accordingly been decided not to count the period of the lockdown for the purposes of adherence to the prescribed timelines,” the government said in a circular on Monday with respect to Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal Rules), 1965 and CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972.

There are strict timelines prescribed in these rules for issuance of charge-sheet to an officer once a decision is taken by a disciplinary authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings, submission of written statement of defence by the charged officer on the charge-sheet, the completion of inquiry and submission of report by the inquiring authority among others. “For example, if the due date for completing a procedure/wok/event at the start of the lockdown falls after 20 days, then the due date will get postponed by the number of lockdown days and the same number (20) of days will be available to complete the work after lockdown is lifted,” the government order has stipulated.

The government has also extended the timeline for annual performance assessments of bureaucrats for 2019-20 of all Group A, B, and C level officers, stipulating that distribution of blank forms for self-appraisal of bureaucrats can be done till May 31 (normal deadline is March 31) and the deadline for submission of self-appraisal to the reporting officer has been extended till June 30 (normal deadline is April 15). Extending deadlines for all stages of the appraisal process, the government has stipulated that the entire appraisal process will end by December 31 this year. “The relaxation is a one-time measure only for appraisal year 2019-20 and is subject to the condition that no remarks shall be recorded in the APAR for 2019-20 after December 31, 2020. Where the reporting, reviewing and the accepting authority fail to record their comments within the time frame, the officer reported upon may be assessed on the basis of overall record and self-assessment for the year, if he has submitted his self-appraisal within stipulated time,” the order says.

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