Wedlock Policy in the Context of Civil Service in Pakistan

The wedlock policy in Pakistan aims to facilitate the joint postings of married couples in civil service to minimize the psychological and economic strains of being stationed apart. However, its application and interpretation by the courts vary, reflecting a balance between administrative discretion and individual rights. This blog analyzes several key cases to understand how the courts treat the wedlock policy in the context of civil service, focusing on recent rulings.

1. Javed Baig v. Director General Military Lands and Cantonment Department (2023 PLC(CS)N 61)

In the case of Javed Baig, the petitioner contended that he could not be transferred from one Cantonment Board to another due to the wedlock policy. The Karachi High Court held that no government servant has a legal right to be posted at a specific location or one of their choice. Transfer orders are a condition of service, and it is within the authority’s discretion to decide transfers. The court emphasized that the High Court is not an appellate forum to decide the administrative grounds for transfer unless malice or extraneous reasons are involved. Since no malice was demonstrated, the petition was dismissed. The court concluded that transfer decisions stand unless vitiated by malice or extraneous reasons, and the petitioner failed to show any malice in this case.

2. Mst. Saman Naz v. Federation of Pakistan (2020 PLC(CS) 905)

In this case, the petitioner challenged her repatriation to her parent department, arguing it was against the wedlock policy. The Islamabad High Court held that a deputationist does not have a vested right to complete their tenure on deputation and can be repatriated by the competent authority without assigning reasons. The court ruled that the wedlock policy could not be interpreted to grant indefinite tenure to deputationists. Therefore, the petition was dismissed, reinforcing that the authority has the power to repatriate deputationists as per service exigencies, and reliance on the wedlock policy is not a valid plea to circumvent repatriation.

3. Mst. Shabana Nizakat v. Government of Punjab (2018 PLC(CS)N 160)

Shabana Nizakat contested a notification preventing spouses from being posted at the same school, arguing it violated the wedlock policy. The Lahore High Court held that the authorities failed to consider the wedlock policy of 1984, which aims to co-locate spouses to avoid psychological and economic strain. The court found no rationale or evidence to support the apprehension of untoward incidents due to spouses working at the same school. The notification was deemed discriminatory and a misuse of authority, and thus, the constitutional petition was allowed.

4. Muhammad Masroor-ul-Haq v. Federation of Pakistan (2017 PLC(CS) 1365)

Masroor-ul-Haq argued that his deputation could not be ended under the wedlock policy. The Islamabad High Court reaffirmed that deputation is an administrative arrangement subject to termination by competent authority at any time, and deputationists do not have a vested right to complete their deputation tenure. The wedlock policy cannot be used to justify continuation on deputation against administrative decisions. The court dismissed the petition, emphasizing that deputationists must return to their parent department as service exigencies require.

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5. Mrs. Zeenat Ahmed v. Federation of Pakistan (2015 PLC(CS) 719)

Zeenat Ahmed contested her transfer citing the wedlock policy. The Karachi High Court held that once a transfer order is made, it falls within the jurisdiction of the Service Tribunal unless there’s a constitutional violation. The petition was dismissed due to the availability of an alternative remedy. The court reiterated that the wedlock policy does not provide an absolute right against transfer orders, and such matters are within the administrative discretion of the relevant authorities.

6. Dr. Akhtar Bano v. Government of Balochistan (2015 PLC(CS) 1215)

Dr. Akhtar Bano challenged her transfer under the wedlock policy. The Balochistan Service Tribunal emphasized that while transfer is within administrative discretion, such discretion must be exercised judiciously and in accordance with established norms of justice and fair play. The tribunal held that the wedlock policy aims to alleviate socio-economic hardships and should be implemented without discrimination. The notification violating this policy was set aside, reinforcing the need for adherence to the policy.

7. Mrs. Zeenat Ahmed v. Federation of Pakistan (2014 PLC(CS) 1032)

Facts: Mrs. Zeenat Ahmed challenged her transfer under the wedlock policy, citing Articles 199 and 35 of the Constitution, which mandate state protection of marriage and family.

Court’s Decision: The Karachi High Court held that the wedlock policy is rooted in the constitutional principle of protecting marriage and family (Article 35). The court emphasized that unless there are insurmountable hurdles, requests from spouses to be posted at the same station should be considered with compassion and kindness. The court ruled in favor of the petitioner, highlighting that the policy advances social good and familial well-being.

8. Mst. Robia Ayub v. Federation of Pakistan (2013 PLC(CS) 915)

Facts: Robia Ayub, a deputationist, claimed a right to permanent absorption in the borrowing department under the wedlock policy.

Court’s Decision: The Islamabad High Court ruled that deputation is an administrative arrangement between borrowing and lending authorities. Deputationists cannot claim permanent absorption based on the wedlock policy. The court reiterated that the policy does not override the contractual nature of deputation, emphasizing the temporary and discretionary nature of such arrangements.

9. Asma Shaheen v. Federation of Pakistan (2013 PLC(CS) 391)

Facts: Asma Shaheen, a married civil servant on deputation, argued her right to remain at the borrowing department under the wedlock policy.

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Court’s Decision: The Islamabad High Court clarified that the wedlock policy does not guarantee indefinite deputation or absorption in the borrowing department. The policy does not supersede administrative discretion and service exigencies. The court dismissed the petition, reinforcing that deputation remains a temporary arrangement subject to the lending authority’s discretion.

10. Mrs. Abida Jabeen v. Secretary Education (Schools) Government of Punjab (2012 PLC(CS) 665)

Facts: Mrs. Abida Jabeen contested her transfer, arguing it violated the wedlock policy, as her husband was stationed in the same district.

Court’s Decision: The Lahore High Court held that while the wedlock policy aims to co-locate spouses, it does not create a vested right to a particular posting. Under Section 9 of the Punjab Civil Servants Act, 1974, civil servants are liable to serve anywhere in the province. The court emphasized that the policy is a guideline, not a binding rule, and dismissed the appeal, supporting the administrative authority’s discretion in transfer decisions.

11. Sajida Abdullah v. District Coordination Officer (2011 PLC(CS) 592)

Facts: Sajida Abdullah challenged her transfer, claiming it was influenced by political pressure and violated the wedlock policy.

Court’s Decision: The Lahore High Court found that the transfer order was issued in violation of the wedlock policy and was influenced by political pressure. The court highlighted that such transfers cause mental distress to spouses and affect their efficiency. The impugned transfer order was set aside, and the court reiterated the importance of adhering to the wedlock policy to avoid undue hardship to married civil servants.

12. Uzma Javed v. Government of Punjab (2010 YLR 1968)

Facts: Uzma Javed requested a second transfer under the wedlock policy, which was denied by the authorities.

Court’s Decision: The Lahore High Court held that while the court could not exercise executive power, the authorities should consider the petitioner’s request for transfer in light of the wedlock policy. The court directed the authorities to review the request compassionately, reinforcing the policy’s intent to co-locate spouses to support familial harmony.

13. Muhammad Afzal v. Chief Secretary, Government of Punjab (2009 PLC(CS) 580)

Facts: Muhammad Afzal, a federal government employee, requested his wife’s transfer under the wedlock policy, which was initially denied.

Court’s Decision: The Lahore High Court emphasized that the wedlock policy is designed to alleviate hardship by facilitating joint postings of spouses. The court directed the authorities to consider the transfer request in accordance with the policy and decide expeditiously, reinforcing the policy’s purpose of reducing psychological and economic strains on married civil servants.

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14. Iram Imtiaz v. Secretary Education Government of Punjab (2007 PLC(CS) 1068)

Facts: Iram Imtiaz challenged her transfer, arguing that no vacant post was available in her desired location under the wedlock policy.

Court’s Decision: The Punjab Service Tribunal held that while the wedlock policy supports co-location of spouses, it is subject to the availability of posts. The tribunal dismissed the appeal, noting that no vacant post was available, but directed the department to consider the appellant’s request when a vacancy arises, ensuring adherence to the policy.

15. Syeda Adeeba Anjum v. Secretary Government of Punjab Education Department (2004 PLC(CS) 622)

Facts: Syeda Adeeba Anjum challenged her transfer, arguing it violated the wedlock policy.

Court’s Decision: The Lahore High Court held that the wedlock policy, rooted in Article 35 of the Constitution, aims to ensure the welfare of the family. The court emphasized that transfer requests under the policy should be considered compassionately and set aside the impugned order, reinforcing the policy’s intent to protect familial well-being.

16. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq v. Secretary to Government of the Punjab (2003 PLC(CS) 1322)

Facts: Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq challenged his transfer, arguing it violated the wedlock policy as his wife was stationed in the same location.

Court’s Decision: The Lahore High Court held that the wedlock policy, designed to co-locate spouses, should be applied compassionately. The court set aside the transfer order, directing the authorities to reconsider the case in light of the policy, emphasizing its importance in ensuring familial harmony and efficiency in public service.

Conclusions

(1) The courts in Pakistan have generally upheld the administrative discretion of government authorities in transfer and posting decisions, including those involving the wedlock policy. However, they also emphasize that such discretion must be exercised judiciously and not arbitrarily. While the wedlock policy aims to alleviate the strains of separate postings for married civil servants, it does not provide an absolute right against transfers, especially in the context of deputation or where administrative exigencies are involved. The judiciary balances the need for administrative efficiency with the personal rights of civil servants, ensuring that transfer decisions are not tainted by malice or extraneous considerations.

(2) While the policy aims to alleviate the strains of separate postings for married civil servants, it does not provide an absolute right against transfers. Courts emphasize that administrative discretion must be exercised judiciously and compassionately, ensuring that transfer decisions are not influenced by malice or extraneous considerations. The judiciary balances the need for administrative efficiency with the personal rights of civil servants, ensuring that the wedlock policy is implemented fairly to support familial well-being and social good.

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