ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Saturday observed that the mandate of the National Accountability Bureau — to check corrupt practices and hold the corrupt accountable — required that it be staffed by competent and experienced individuals.

The apparent purpose of promulgating the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) was to target offenders who indulged in massive corruption or to check the misuse or abuse of power, not to apprehend petty criminals, says a detailed judgement authored by Justice Amir Hani Muslim.

In the verdict in a suo motu case against illegal appointments and out-of-turn promotions in NAB, the court observed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had to eradicate corrupt practices by holding culprits accountable.

The objective was to provide effective measures for detection, investigation and prosecution of those involved in corrupt practices or those who had misused or abused their powers, Justice Muslim highlighted, adding that NAB also had the mandate to proceed against white-collar criminals who might not be easily detected by provincial police or anti-corruption establishments.

Court rules NAB chairman can’t relax hiring criteria on candidates’ eligibility

This very mandate dictates that different positions in NAB should be filled by persons possessing certain minimal academic qualifications and experience as stipulated in the schedule to Methods of Appointment and Qualification (MAQ) and the stringent conditions for promotion as mentioned in the Employees Terms and Conditions of Service (TCS) 2002.

The judgement, however, noted that while NAB acknowledged many shortcomings and discrepancies in the appointments, inductions and promotions, the bureau had a different viewpoint.

Justice Muslim recalled that NAB’s counsel, as well as Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar, had tried to justify why the stipulated academic qualifications or prescribed experience was not met and a number of “untenable arguments” were put forward in this regard.

A reference was made to Rule 14.03(2) of TCS, while another argument put forward was that the appointments made by transfer, as envisaged in Part VI of the TCS, and had their own methodology.

The NAB prosecutor general also advanced the novel contention that under “Academic Qualification”, appointments could also be made if the appointee had “any qualification approved by the competent authority”.

It was also stated that the NAB chairman had the power to relax any provision, condition or requirement. Similarly, a senior counsel canvassed another “extraordinary viewpoint”, saying that if an appointment was made pursuant to a policy issued by the prime minister that supported or encouraged sportspersons, the stipulated qualification and experience requirements would not be relevant.

However, the judgement explained that though an attempt was made to complicate the matter, it was basically very simple. The MAQ and TCS prescribed the requisite academic qualification and experience that a person must possess at the time of his appointment.

TCS does not stipulate that those who opt for permanent absorption in NAB are not required to have the academic qualifications and experience provided in MAQ, nor does MAQ nor any TCS rule mention that the qualifications prescribed in MAQ would not apply to such persons.

Therefore, the prescribed qualifications are applicable. This would also apply to the appointments made on the basis of transfers, the judgement said.

The contention that an individual can obtain the requisite qualifications subsequently, i.e. after he had already joined NAB service, was also held to be unsustainable. If this concept or principle was accepted, it would render the stipulated qualifications for a particular job meaningless.

Referring to the argument that the NAB chairman possessed the power to relax any provision or condition under TCS is also a contradiction of the same rules, Justice Muslim held, adding that the chairman’s power to give relaxations was circumscribed by other rules.

In the court’s considered view, the NAB chairman did not have the authority to relax any rule by compromising eligibility and academic qualifications.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2017


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