ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court’s (LHC) Rawalpindi bench has reversed the sacking of two army officers on the ground that the termination orders were not passed in accordance with the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the Mustafa Impex case.
Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf gave the verdict on Friday after hearing the petitions of Brig Shafiq and Capt Irfan against their dismissal.
An apex court bench, headed by former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, had stipulated that a military officer can be sacked only after the federal government’s approval, defining the word ‘government’ as “the prime minister and his cabinet”.
Brig Shafiq, an officer of the Army’s engineering corps, was dismissed from service on a charge of receiving kickbacks from a contractor.
His counsel, retired Brig Wasaf Khan Niazi and Inamur Rahim, said their client was commissioned in the Army in 1987. He assumed the office of director of works in Military Engineering Services (MES) on Nov 28, 2017.
The petition stated that MES is governed by the MES Regulations and functions on an inter-services basis (Army, Navy and Air Force) under an engineer-in-chief of the General Headquarters.
The director of works is the most senior position in each service and Brig Shafiq was due to retire in Oct 2018, but since he was on deputation for three years, his service was extended till completion of that term.
The petition stated that in 2018, before the closure of financial year, a sum of Rs1.63 billion was found to have remained unspent and Brig Shafiq was under obligation to surrender this amount to the national exchequer.
However, the then naval chief asked him to transfer over Rs 2bn to a housing project for retired naval officers.
According to the petition, Brig Shafiq was directed not to surrender the amount to the national treasury and warned of “consequences” if he did not comply.
It went on to state that the petitioner explained the legal position that those funds cannot be used for the housing scheme as it was to be funded through the members’ contributions.
Upon the petitioner’s refusal, the Naval Intelligence took him into custody on a charge of receiving kickbacks from a contractor.
According to the petition, Brig Shafiq was then transferred to GHQ and later dismissed from service in 2019.
The petition pointed out that under the Pakistan Army Act, an officer could only be dismissed from service by the federal government and in the light of Mustafa Impex case, the federal government means the Prime Minister and his cabinet.
On the court’s query, Additional Attorney General Khalid Pervaiz Bhatti conceded that the permission of Brig Shafiq’s dismissal was accorded by the prime minister. But the court noted that there was no approval of the federal cabinet for the dismissal.
Subsequently, Justice Rauf set aside the dismissal order of the officer. He, however, asked the military authorities to initiate the process for his dismissal after completing all legal formalities.
In another case, military authorities removed Capt Irfan for alleged misconduct.
His counsel told the court that the officer had not been removed in accordance with the process outlined in the Pakistan Army Act and ny the superior courts. The court also set aside the dismissal order of Captain Irfan.
Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2023
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