SHC to hear urgent petition about air crashes today

Updated May 29 2020

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Sindh High Court has been moved to book aviation minister, PIA chief. — SHC website/File
Sindh High Court has been moved to book aviation minister, PIA chief. — SHC website/File

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Thursday allowed an application seeking urgent hearing of a petition about various incidents of air crashes and fixed it for hearing on Friday (today).

The petitioner filed an application for urgent hearing of his petition filed in 2016 and also informed the bench that the A320 aircraft of Pakistan International Airlines carrying 99 passengers and crew members crashed in a residential area near Karachi airport on May 22, leaving 97 people dead.

The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar allowed the application and fixed the petition for hearing on May 29.

In January, the SHC had issued a show-cause notice to the aviation department secretary for not submitting a progress report regarding a pending inquiry into the ATR aircraft crash in 2016. The SHC was informed that the inquiry was being conducted by an aircraft accident investigation and inquiry board at the federal capital under the aviation division.

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.

Court moved to book aviation minister, PIA chief

Impleading the PIA, CAA and others as respondents, the petitioner argued that there had been various incidents where ATR planes of the PIA crashed, killing many people.

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obligation of the cabinet division secretary, the CAA director general and the PIA chairman to stop buying the “outdated” planes, using them and risking the lives of passengers and crew.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 payment of compensation to the heirs of the crash victims.

Plea against minister, PIA chief

A lawyer moved a court on Thursday to seek direction for the police to register a case against Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Pakistan International Airlines chairman Arshad Malik and key engineering officers over the PK-8303 flight crash.

Advocate Qadir Khan Mandokhel moved a criminal miscellaneous application with District Judge (East) Khalid Hussain Shahani.

In the plea, a direction has been sought for the senior superintendent police (East) and the station house officer of Model Colony police station to book the aviation minister, the PIA chief and others for their alleged negligence in checking the ill-fated plane before allowing it to fly.

The applicant contended that it was the responsibility of the ground engineer and other team members at Allama Iqbal Airport, Lahore, to inspect the plane and stop it from flying if it had any technical fault, “but they failed to complete such formalities and take necessary steps”.

Mr Mandokhel claimed the aviation minister, PIA chairman, chief engineer, ground engineer and other staff members were responsible for the tragedy.

After the crash he had lodged a complaint with the Model Colony SHO “which is still pending and no action has been taken against the nominated persons”.

Mr Mandokhel said he had no confidence in local investigation into the plane crash, therefore, an impartial probe into the incident be made at the international level.

He added that a delay in the investigation would benefit those responsible for the crash, therefore, the voice box of the pilot/captain of the crashed plane, its black box, digital box and video recording be brought on record and produced to ensure a transparent and fair investigation.

DJ Shahani is expected to take up the plea tomorrow (Friday), Mr Mandokhel told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2020