ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered the Sindh chief secretary on Friday to constitute an inquiry committee within 10 days to investigate an alleged fake appointment scandal in the Sindh Education Department (SED).
The committee will scrutinise the entire recruitment process of the provincial education department while verifying the authenticity of appointment letters issued to 56 petitioners whose jobs were subsequently revoked by the department shortly after their hiring.
“In our considered view, before declaring the appointments illegal or taking any action against the petitioners, a drastic action should have been taken against the responsible persons who committed illegality, if any, at the departmental level,” observed Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar in a judgement he wrote.
Justice Mazhar was a member of a three-judge Supreme Court bench, which also consisted of Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Musarrat Hilali that had taken up an appeal against the Nov 28, 2022, Sindh High Court (SHC) judgement.
Instructs Sindh chief secretary to form inquiry committee within 10 days
The SHC had rejected the petitioners’ plea on the grounds that they had failed to prove their appointments were made through a competitive process and their documents were also not found to be genuine. Moreover, the petitioners were employed on a contractual basis; therefore, the principle of master and servant applies and they have no right to approach the court.
During the hearing, the SC was told that the appointment letters of all the petitioners were found to be forged in an earlier inquiry. Besides, no record of the petitioners was available in the concerned office since these were made without the approval of the district recruitment committee (DRC). The former district education officer (DEO) managed these illegal appointments.
In response, the SC set aside the high court verdict and ordered the chief secretary of Sindh to appoint an inquiry committee comprising additional secretary of Education Sindh, additional secretary of SGA&CD Sindh and deputy secretary (law) of the School Education and Literacy Department Sindh within 10 days.
In the judgement, Justice Mazhar observed that the beneficiaries of the appointments cannot be blamed alone because primarily the authority who issued appointment letters in the recruitment process was bound to be punished first instead of the petitioners who commenced their duties after receiving appointment letters.
The judgement obligated the inquiry committee to issue notice to all 56 petitioners, as well as departmental representatives, for joining the inquiry proceedings.
The committee will allow the petitioners to produce relevant documents so that it may be verified whether the petitioners joined the appointment process in terms of the advertisement and after appearing and qualifying the aptitude test, the appointment letters were issued to them after complying with codal formalities.
If the appointment letters are found to be fake after due satisfaction, then what punitive action was taken against the person responsible for the fake recruitment process and how the petitioners who joined recruitment process in response to the advertisement are responsible.
The committee will also call for the entire record of recruitment process questioned in the present proceedings to examine the authenticity of appointment letters issued to the petitioners. The committee will complete the inquiry within 90 days from the date of constituting the inquiry committee, the result of which will be communicated to the petitioners in writing. The petitioners may avail appropriate legal remedy in accordance with the law if found to be aggrieved and dissatisfied with the result of inquiry, the judgement said.
Referring to the complaint that no salary has been paid to the petitioners after joining service for the period they actually performed their duties, the committee will also examine this aspect and if salary is found due during the period the petitioners actually served, the same will be paid after fulfilment of requisite codal formalities within a month of the conclusion of the inquiry.
The SC also ordered its office to send a copy of the order to the Sindh chief secretary and advocate general for compliance.
Published in Dawn, September 23th, 2023