IHC irked by govt failure to appoint CAA chief

Updated 13 Aug 2020

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Justice Minallah remarked that appointing an eligible and competent person against the post of director general of the authority fell within the exclusive domain of the executive organ of the state. — AFP/File
Justice Minallah remarked that appointing an eligible and competent person against the post of director general of the authority fell within the exclusive domain of the executive organ of the state. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) observed on Wednesday that the government’s inability to appoint a permanent director general of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had made the issue of the licences of commercial pilots controversial.

While hearing a petition filed by a sacked pilot, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued a notice to the attorney general and sought explanation why the post of the CAA DG had been lying vacant for over two years.

Mohsin Ali, a section officer, appeared in the court on behalf of the Aviation Division but the court observed that he could not give satisfactory explanations on queries raised by the court.

He could not explain why the matter was delegated to the acting director general of the CAA when the Lahore High Court vide its order of Dec5, 2019 had directed the secretary of the Aviation Division to consider the objections and pass a speaking order.

Observes this ‘inability’ has made pilots’ issue controversial

The section officer could not give a satisfactory explanation for the government’s failure to appoint an eligible and competent person as DG of the CAA on a permanent basis for the last two years, Justice Minallah noted.

Section Officer Ali said that advertisements were published in the newspapers twice, but a suitable person could not be identified for the post through the process.

Justice Minallah remarked that appointing an eligible and competent person against the post of director general of the authority fell within the exclusive domain of the executive organ of the state.

“Prima facie, it does not appear from the statutory provisions that the manner of appointment by way of advertisement has been prescribed,” the court observed. It noted that in the case in hand, the fundamental right of every citizen, guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution, was involved.

“The manner in which this case has been handled, prima facie, indicates gross mismanagement. The issue relating to licences of commercial pilots and the proceedings conducted by the acting Director General of one of the most important regulatory authorities i.e. the Civil Aviation Authority has profound consequences for the image of the country and the interests of the national airline i.e. Pakistan International Airline Corporation,” the court observed.

Putting the attorney general on notice, the court asked him to “seek instructions from the Federal Government and explain the unreasonable delay in appointing an eligible and competent person on permanent basis against the post of Director General, Civil Aviation Authority.”

Earlier on July 9, the court had stopped the CAA from proceeding against the pilot whose licence has been revoked by the authority for being ‘dubious’.

On July 1, the IHC had dismissed a petition seeking action against the aviation minister for prima facie causing irreparable loss to professional pilots, the PIA and the state and people of Pakistan by alleging irregularities in the credentials of the pilots.

The court had said it would show restraint in intervening into the matter keeping in mind that the parliament, the prime minister and the federal cabinet would not hesitate to proceed against Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan and the CAA if they were found involved, in any manner, in causing harm to the interests of the state or the reputation of professional pilots and the national flag carrier.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2020