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IHC terms hiring of retired officials unconstitutional

May 06, 2013

ISLAMABAD, May 5:  The jobs of a number of retired judges, generals and bureaucrats are in jeopardy after the Islamabad High Court (IHC), in a recent judgment, termed the policy of rehiring from these three categories unconstitutional.

The establishment division on May 6, 2000 had introduced the rule for the re-appointment of retired military personnel, judges and bureaucrats without involving any competitive processes.

According to this rule, open advertisement is not applicable for the re-employment of retired officials in the three categories.

Last month, the establishment division had tried to justify the appointment of Major General (retired) Malik Mohammad Farooq as the managing director Utility Stores Corporation (USC) in the IHC, referring to the May 2000 policy.

However, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui declared the appointment illegal and in the detailed order said the May 2000 policy was “offensive to the constitutional mandate and principles of natural justice.

It avoided appointments on merit to oblige blue-eyed people. Such policies are not less than political bribe.”

The judgment added that all posts of government owned organisations and corporations were required to be filled through a competitive, credible and transparent process rather than on the basis of personal liking or disliking and in violation of the merit.

Though the court did not issue any directions to the federal government to remove these retired personnel from high-profile positions, legal experts believe that, on the basis of these observations, the law ministry can initiate the process of removing officers who had not been appointed through a competitive process.

According to sources in the establishment division, 30 retired army officers, judges and bureaucrats are currently holding key positions in different ministries, public sector organisations and autonomous bodies.

These included Secretary Defence Lt-Gen (retired) Asif Yasin Malik, secretary defence production Lt-Gen (retired) Shahid Iqbal, director general Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Marshal (retired) Khalid Chaudhry, consultant (legal) to the president Justice (retired) Ali Nawaz Chuhan and special secretary to the president Nasreen Haq.

Similarly, they named secretary law Justice (retired) Mohammad Raza Khan, senior joint secretaries at ministry of law Dr Riaz Mehmood, Raja Lehrasab Khan (former registrar Supreme Court), ombudsperson Justice (retired) Yasmin Abbasi, director access to justice programme Justice (retired) Musa K Leghari and advisor finance division Rana Asad Amin.

Members of prime minister inspection team, session judge (retired) Syed Sultan Ahmed, Ahsan Akhtar Malik, Athar Mehmood Khan and Salimullah Khan, member agriculture planning commission Javed Malik and coordinator industries and production G.M. Sikandar were also included in the list.

Sources said the establishment division had recently started the process of removing such appointees, and had initially terminated the contract of Munir Ahmed, special secretary establishment division.

Raja Hassan Abbas, additional secretary establishment, when approached for comments confirmed that a number of retired officers were still working in different government departments because of the May 2000 policy.

Referring to the IHC judgment, he said, “Although the court had made some observation against the said policy, it did not direct us to remove the re-employed officers.”

However, in the IHC during 2011 and 2012, over 100 appointments were made without adhering to any competitive process. Among these, 25 appointments were made for BPS-17 to BPS-20, and were made by relaxing the role and “in public interest”.

Senior lawyer Mohammad Akram Sheikh, who was the counsel of former MD USC Gen (retired) Farooq, commented on the IHC order by stating that appointments in the lower courts and high courts also came under the ambit of the IHC judgment.

“If an officer is sent home because his post had not been advertised, how can these people, who had been inducted via a similar process, be allowed to continue?” he questioned.

Instead of examining identical appointments on an individual basis, the court should categorically declare the rule illegal and end such practices, he said.

Syed Qalbe Hassan, Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), termed it a historic judgment and suggested that it should be referred to the law ministry for implementation so that those who had been appointed without competing were sent home.

“Even those who were appointed in the IHC without competing should be removed because there should be no discrimination and no one is above law,” he added.

He said the incumbent registrar of the Supreme Court should also be relieved because, contrary to other public servants, he had been given repeated extensions despite reaching the age of superannuation.