RAWALPINDI/LAHORE: Following the Supreme Court’s directives, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Friday served show-cause notices on five of its suspended officials facing an inquiry over their alleged involvement in issuing dubious pilot licences.
The Aviation Division, on the other hand, is also consulting legal experts on referring cases against the CAA’s information technology (IT) experts, allegedly involved in the dubious licences scam, to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
A senior joint director of the authority’s licensing branch and a human resources supervisor were among the officials who were suspended. They were accused of allowing some pilots to appear in exams through proxies.
In another development, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday restrained the CAA director general from taking a final decision on the cancellation of a commercial pilot’s licence.
Seeks legal opinion on handing over cases against IT experts to FIA; LHC restrains authority from taking decision on cancellation of pilot’s licence
The Supreme Court had on Tuesday ordered CAA Director General (DG) Hassan Nasir Jamy, who is also the aviation division secretary, to take departmental action on the issue of dubious licences. “Ones who have affixed their signatures on fake licences should also go to jail,” the apex court had observed.
According to sources, the Aviation Division had suspended five CAA officials and initiated inquiry against IT department officials as well as some outsiders suspected of being involved in the exam scandal.
Out of the 262 pilots alleged to have dubious flying licences, 102 were associated with the Pakistan International Airlines. They have been grounded and departmental action initiated against them.
Of the 262 pilots, 161 were suspended and served show-cause notices, while the licences of 28 pilots have been cancelled. Over 40 pilots have so far submitted their appeals before the Aviation Division.
The Aviation Division is expected to complete its process of verifying the dubious pilot licences in the next week. All departmental and legal actions are being taken against them after “double check”, a senior aviation official said.
Justice Mohammad Ameer Bhatti of the Lahore High Court issued the stay order on a writ petition filed by Bilal Chughtai, who had challenged the suspension of his licence for being dubious.
The petitioner’s counsel stated before the court that his client was issued Air Transport Pilot Licence after passing all examinations conducted by the CAA in 2015. He said the authority continued renewing his licence time and again till Aug 31, 2019.
The counsel submitted that the authority’s director general issued the impugned order on July 10 and suspended his client’s licence on the allegation of fraud, misrepresentation and failing to appear in person in the written examination. He contended that there was no evidence available on record to support the allegations attributed to the petitioner by the authority.
The counsel pleaded that the impugned order was appealable but the appellate authority in the case was the same that had issued it. He argued that the civil aviation’s rules that allowed the director general to hear an appeal against his own order violated the fundamental right of due process of law guaranteed in Article 10-A of the Constitution.
He further argued that the aviation’s rules were also contrary to the principle of natural justice as they did not envisage a right of hearing prior to issuing an order of suspension.
The counsel requested the high court to declare the rules empowering the CAA director general to hear an appeal against his own orders unconstitutional, and the federal government be directed to provide adequate remedy against the order of suspension by the respondent authority. He urged the court that till a remedy was made available by the government, the respondent DG should be restrained from holding proceedings against the petitioner.
The judge adjourned the hearing for a date to be fixed later and restrained the respondent from taking a decision in the impugned proceedings.
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2020