ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday ruled that the employees of the strategic organisations working under the National Command Authority (NCA) could not file petitions in constitutional courts to get their service matters settled.
A three-member IHC larger bench observed that to safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear assets and maintain effective mechanism of non-proliferation, service-related matters of those employees should not be adjudicated in the open courts.
“The commitment to non-proliferation and safeguarding against security lapses is a crucial obligation. The desperation of non-state actors involved in terrorism to gain advantage due to weak control and command or breach of confidentiality is not a mere myth,” observed the bench while hearing 108 identical petitions filed by the employees of the organisations working under the NCA.
The NCA is the apex civilian-led command to oversee the employment, policy formulation, exercises, deployment, research and development and operational command and control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals.
Rules that constitutional courts can’t be moved to settle service-related matters
The IHC larger bench dismissed the petitions filed by the employees of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Space and Upper Atmospheric Research Commission, Defence Science and Technology Organisation, National Engineering and Scientific Commission, National Defence Complex, Project Management Organisation, Air Weapons Complex and Maritime Technologies Complex.
In all petitions, the grievances of the petitioners were related to their employment.
The IHC larger bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Fiaz Ahmed Anjum Jandran examined the issue of the jurisdiction of the high court under Article 199 of the Constitution to entertain and adjudicate upon the prayers sought in the petitions.
Saifur Rehman, the counsel for the petitioners, raised grievances related to refusal by the NCA and the strategic organisations to regularise services of the contract employees, saying regularisation did not come within the ambit of terms and conditions of the service.
Ahmer Bilal Soofi, the counsel for the NCA, said that the strategic organisations were entrusted with highly sensitive functions and the work and activities carried out by the NCA and the strategic organisations were of paramount public importance since it was relatable to national security. He said the employees of the organisations were selected after careful scrutiny and their salary and privileges were more favourable than persons employed in other organisations. To redress their grievances relating to their employment, they had been provided with various forums, he added.
The lawyer argued that judicial review of the grievances relating to employment disputes of the employees could expose the NCA and the strategic organisations to leakage of sensitive information about personnel working in the organisations.
The court observed that the grievances of contract employees related to regularisation were also not amenable because they were governed under the rules which had explicitly been declared as non-statutory by parliament.
The court noted that composition of the NCA under relevant law raised a presumption that effective resolution of employment-related disputes and grievances of the employees would be dealt with fairly and in accordance with the law.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021