LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has observed that the public institutions should not be allowed to become a breeding ground for parasites as they should have the freedom to manage their affairs in an appropriate manner so they may deliver and come up to expectations of the nation.

Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh observed this, allowing petitions of several terminated regular employees of the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Private) Limited (Nespak).

According to the terms of services, either party could terminate the employment on three months’ written notice or payment of three months’ salary in lieu thereof without assigning any reason.

The Nespak invoked the said clause and “dispensed with” the petitioners’ services “with immediate effect.” They challenged their termination before the court.

The petitioners through counsel contended that the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) framed the Public Sector Companies (Corporate Governance) Rules, 2013 to regulate the companies. They said the Nespak was subject to those rules as it was a state-owned enterprise.

It terminated the petitioners in complete disregard thereof with the mala fide intent to create room for political appointments. The petitioners were mainly represented by counsel Ijaz Ahmad Awan and Shahid Anwar Bajwa.

Nespak’s counsel Hafiz Tariq Nasim contended that the petitioners’ grievance related to the terms and conditions of service which were the subject of the Employees Service Rules.

He said since the rules were non-statutory, the petitioners were governed by the principle of master and servant and the petition was not maintainable.

In his 14-page judgement, Justice Sheikh notes that the impugned termination letters are cyclostyled and inexplicit.

He observes that courts disapprove of the notices which merely intimate the employee/worker that his services are no more required because they cannot justify his termination.

Justice Sheikh holds that the courts have held that the public sector employments cannot be snapped with one stroke of pen as it offends various provisions of the Constitution particularly Article 4, which protects the right to be dealt with in accordance with law.

He states that the Nespak sent the petitioners home under a plan which has neither been prepared nor approved in accordance with the Corporate Governance Rules.

He says it lacks transparency and completely disregards the principle of procedural due process. Even the impugned termination letters do not meet the standards of good governance, he adds.

“Hence, the company’s action against the petitioners cannot be approved,” the judge writes in the judgement.Allowing the petitions, the judge set aside the termination of the petitioners.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2022

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