KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Thursday put the secretary of the aviation department on notice and called a progress report about a pending inquiry into an ATR aircraft crash in 2016.

The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar also directed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to file a report regarding the number of operational ATRs, details about grounded ATRs, issuance of airworthiness certificates and whether proper procedures were followed before issuing such certificates.

When a petition about various incidents of ATR plane crashes came up for hearing on Thursday, the additional director of the airworthiness department of the CAA, Amir Hasan, filed a reply.

However, the bench observed that it had specifically directed the CAA to inform the court about how many ATRs were operational with aircraft aging, number of grounded ATRs, when the airworthiness certificates were lastly issued and whether proper procedure had been followed before issuing such certificates by the CAA.

It directed the additional director to personally submit answers to these questions by Jan 21.

A PIA flight crashed in 2016 near Abbottabad killing 42 persons, including Junaid Jamshed and his wife

A woman turned up during the hearing and told the bench that she had come to know about the pendency of this petition and appeared to witness the proceedings since she said her son, Ahmed Mansoor Janjua, first officer, was also in the ATR that crashed in December 2016.

She further submitted that despite various approaches neither the CAA nor the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) informed her about the fate of an inquiry into the ATR crash.

The CAA official contended that an inquiry was being conducted by the aircraft accident investigation and inquiry board at the federal capital under the aviation division.

He maintained that the outcome of the ongoing inquiry was not known to the CAA or the PIA.

Therefore, the bench issued a notice to the aviation department secretary with the direction to depute an officer concerned to appear in court on Jan 21 with a progress report, if any, with regard to a pending inquiry.

It said the notice be served through the district judge of Islamabad and courier service while assistant attorney general was also directed to inform the aviation secretary to ensure the presence of a representative at the next hearing. Copies of the replies submitted by the CAA and PIA be provided to the petitioner, it was observed.

The petition was filed after an Islamabad-bound flight of the national flag carrier had crashed near Abbottabad after it took off from Chitral on Dec 7, 2016 in which 42 passengers and crew, including singer-turned preacher Junaid Jamshed and his wife, lost their lives.

Impleading the PIA, CAA and others as respondents, the petitioner argued that there were various incidents whereas ATR planes of the PIA crashed in which a large number of precious lives were lost.

He further maintained that after the occurrence of such incidents in the past, it was the constitutional obligation of the cabinet division secretary, the CAA DG and the PIA chairman to stop buying outdated planes, using them and risking the lives of passengers and crew.

The petitioner further contended that despite having knowledge of the defects and malfunctioning of ATRs, the PIA and other respondents did not take any precautionary measures to prevent such incidents.

He pleaded for a judicial inquiry, to fix responsibility on the relevant officials for it, prosecute them and order compensation to the legal heirs of the victims of the crash.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2019