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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday restored a review petition instituted against its 2006 judgement in which the sale of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) was annulled.

“We find sufficient cause made out, therefore, the review petition is restored and the office is directed to assign a registration number,” Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said while heading a nine-judge SC bench.

Senior counsel Khalid Anwar, representing Arif Habib Securities, said he wanted expunction of certain “defamatory” remarks against his client which were a permanent stain on his reputation.

When asked by the court what purpose would it serve even if the court restored the review petition since the bid for the sale of the mills could not be opened now, the senior counsel explained that he would make an effort to convince the court about certain defective interpretation of certain sections of the privatisation law. Secondly, he added, it would help in removing certain findings against his client which were based on complete travesty of facts.

Petitioner seeks reversal of the verdict, claims no illegality can be found in sale of Pakistan Steel Mills

The review petition seeks reversal of the 2006 judgement because no illegality could be found in the privatisation of the PSM.

Additional Attorney General Muhammad Waqar Rana, when asked, said that the federal government had no objection if the review petition was revived.

The same was the response of petitioner Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the Watan Party, though he expressed the fear that it might also open a Pandora’s box.

Barrister Zafarullah is the petitioner who in the first round of litigation had challenge the privatisation of the PSM.

On June 30, 2006, a nine-judge SC bench, headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Muham­mad Chaudhry, had invalidated the privatisation of PSM to a three-party consortium by holding the $362 million transaction with Russian-Saudi-Pakistani investors null and void.

The judgement was issued on a petition moved by Barrister Zafarullah who had challenged the sale of 75 per cent stake and handing over of the management control of PSM to the then consortium comprising Russian Magnit­ogorsk, Saudi Al Tuwariqi and Arif Habib Securities.

Tracing the history, Mr Anwar argued that his review petition against the judgement was taken up by the SC in 2013, seven years after its judgement, when he was on a general adjournment starting from June 2.

But on June 6, 2013, the review petition was taken up by the larger bench of the apex court which dismissed the petition since no one appeared on behalf of the petitioner before the court.

The application for restoration of the review petition states that it is the petitioner who will suffer ultimately despite the fact that the senior counsel representing the petitioner had in fact been granted general adjournment by the court.

In its 2006 judgement, the Supreme Court had held that the Privatisation Commission Ordinance, 2000, was not against the Constitution, but the process of the PSM privatisation stood vitiated by acts of omissions and commissions on part of certain state functionaries reflecting violation of mandatory provisions of the law and rules.

However, the judgement said that the approval for the privatisation of PSM by the Council of Common Interests on May 29, 1997 continued to hold the field.

On illegalities, the judgement highlighted that the pre-qualified parties — Arif Habib Group of Companies and Al-Tuwariqi Group of Companies — had entered into a consortium before the bidding process, but the third party — Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works Russia — joined hands with the consortium on the day of the bidding.

The verdict explained that since the bid offered by this consortium was found to be higher than the bid of other competitors, it was accepted and a letter of acceptance was issued on the same day i.e. March 31, 2006, followed by the agreement on April 24.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2018

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