ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has ordered that the identity of officer concerned be disclosed in notifications or office memorandums, instead of using the vague and imprecise term “competent authority”.

“Using the term the competent authority is an anathema and results in avoidable disputes, unnecessarily consumes time and public resources,” observed Justice Qazi Faez Isa in a judgement he wrote. “Not disclosing identity or designation or name is against the public policy and also against the public interest since it facilitates illegalities to be committed and protects those committing them.”

A two-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Isa and Justice Amin-ud-Din also ordered that the federal and provincial governments, registrars of the Supreme Court and high courts and district and sessions courts would issue requisite orders or directives that they and their functionaries, semi-government and statutory organisations whenever issuing notifications, orders, office memorandums, instructions, letters and other communications must disclose the designation and the name of the person issuing the same.

Holds that identity of officer concerned be disclosed in official documents

This would ensure that such notifications were issued by the legally authorised officer and also that such person remained accountable, the judgment explained.

“We are convinced that there is a need to put a stop to the use of the illusive and elusive term — the competent authority — without disclosure of the competent authority’s designation and name,” the judgement said.

The apex court ordered that the copies of the judgment be sent to the secretary of Establishment Division, chief secretaries of the provinces, the head of Islamabad Capital Territory and registrars of the Supreme Court and high courts with a directive to issue requisite orders/directives and to publish the same in their gazettes.

Compliance report should be submitted to the chamber by or before March 1, the judgement said.

The use of accurate and precise language helped avoid disputes, Justice Isa observed.

The verdict came while the SC bench decided an appeal against the March 15, 2019 Sindh Service Tribunal judgement.

The appeal before the apex court was moved by the Sindh government against Mir Shahzad Hussain Talpur.

The appeal challenged the judgement of the tribunal which had set aside dismissal order of Mr Talpur from the position of special auditor in the Cooperation Department — which is another name for the Cooperative Department.

Mr Talpur was appointed through a May 10, 2013 notification as special auditor by allegedly concealing the identity of the secretary concerned and the connection between him and the appointed person. The concealment of the designation and the use of the term competent authority enabled the secretary to illegally appoint Mr Talpur.

The SC judgement held that Mr Talpur was illegally selected and appointed by the secretary and his selection or appointment was not sustainable nor was it such a minor transgression that it could be condoned. The court said it was not persuaded by the contention that the respondent should not be penalised for the illegalities committed by the department.

The Supreme Court explained that whenever the constitution granted power to an individual it mentioned his position or designation, for instance the president, prime minister, chief justice or governor. The same also holds true with regard to the federal and provincial laws and to the governments’ rules of business.

Merely mentioning the competent authority without disclosing the designation and name of the person who was supposed to be the competent authority was utterly meaningless, the judgement said, adding that non-disclosure served to obfuscate and enabled illegalities to be committed.

In this case, the judgement said, the secretary was not authorised to appoint Mr Talpur but he managed to do so by donning the competent authority’s cloak.

In the end, the court converted the petition into an appeal and set aside the tribunal’s decision.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2022



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