PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has declared the appointment process for the posts of assistant directors and food safety officers in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Food Safety and Halal Food Authority as dubious and not transparent and ordered that it should be reconsidered by a ‘responsible’ officer.

A bench consisting of Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Syed M Attique Shah directed the member inspection team (MIT) of the provincial government to scrutinise these appointments observing that candidates with irrelevant qualification were appointed against the said posts.

While disposing of 10 petitions filed by aggrieved candidates, the bench highlighted several irregularities in the appointment process and ruled that the appointments so made to the posts of assistant director (food security) (BPS-17) and food safety officers (BPS-16) required to be reconsidered.

The bench referred the matter to the MIT of the provincial government with the direction to scrutinise the appointments and the credentials and merit of each of the appointee and to submit his detailed report to the appointing authority along with his recommendations for necessary action.

Highlights irregularities in recruitment process; refers matter to govt’s member inspection team

The bench also directed that a copy of the said recommendations be also forwarded to the high court’s registrar for the perusal of the judges.

The bench directed that the MIT should finalise the process and submit his recommendations positively within a period of two months.

These appointments were made in 2020 against 73 posts of assistant director (food safety) and food safety officer in different regions in the province.

“We find that the appointment process, so carried out, for the posts of assistant director (food safety) and food safety officer is not transparent,” the bench ruled adding that the basic qualification for the post of assistant director and food safety officer had not been adhered to while considering the candidates for appointment.

In its 18-page detailed judgment, the bench observed that the merit list placed on file, depicted that the candidates having qualifications of master degree in food science and technology/ food safety and quality management/ food safety and control/ food nutrition and science/ biological sciences were ignored while the candidates having irrelevant qualifications were preferred for appointments.

“We have further noted that marks were given for basic requisite experience prescribed for the post of assistant director (food safety) while experience score can only be given for the experience over and above the prescribed one. It prima facie suggests that in order to raise their merit, such candidates were granted such scores,” the bench ruled.

It further observed that the basic condition of one year postgraduate diploma in food safety and control from a recognised institute were obtained by the appointees from the institutions which were never meant to grant such diplomas nor they were authorised under the law.

Lawyers Liaqat Ali Shinwari, Habibullah Mohmand, Javed Iqbal Gulbela, Syed Rehmat Ali, Muhammad Ashfaq, Khalid Rehman, Nasir Naeem, etc. appeared for the petitioners and contended that in sheer disregard to merit candidates not having the prescribed qualifications were appointed against the posts of assistant director (food safety) and food safety officers.

They pointed out that one of the appointees was having qualification BS in political science, which was an irrelevant degree but still he was appointed.

“It is very unfortunate state of affairs that we have noted and observed in many cases that the appointments to public posts are not made in a transparent manner. Such practice has eroded the public confidence on the selection process and it has become a general perception that the appointments in the departments are not made on merit but either on the direction of the political figures or some influential in the department,” the bench observed.

The bench referred to several judgments of the Supreme Court observing that the apex court had time and again stressed upon the executive not to accept any kind of pressure in the matter of appointments and postings and go by the book come what may, however, it seemed that either they were adamant enough not to follow the law or so insecure that they always succumbed to the extraneous interference.

”We understand that there is no law in the country giving authority to the public representatives to interfere into the executive and administrative domain even to the extent of recommendation and proposal albeit, the appointments, so made, is a classic example of such interference,” the bench further maintained.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2023

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