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Fuel price adjustment Court order becomes ineffective

November 25, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Nov 24: Late last month, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had declared the collection of fuel price adjustment (FPA) fares in electricity bills illegal and ordered immediate reimbursement of the amount to respective consumers.

However, in less than a month since the court passed the short order on the petition filed by Barrister Abubakar Sehri and 600 other petitioners, it has become ineffective.

The reason is that the IHC judge Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who had given the order, never got a chance to pass a detailed judgment since his term expired on November 20.

Besides Justice Siddiqui, Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi’s terms also expired on November 20, and there are at least 600 petitions whose detailed judgments have not been issued.

“The matter would be forwarded to IHC registrar Niaz Mohammad Khan and he with the approval of Chief Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman would fix them before available judges for passing appropriate orders,” an official of the court said.

According to the Supreme Court Monthly Review 1996 and 1997, the detailed judgment of a short order announced by a judge cannot be authored by the same judge after his term has expired.

“If a judge could not write the detailed judgment of a short order before leaving his office on any ground, another judge cannot issue the detailed judgment on the said matter and the case would be remanded to any other judge for a fresh hearing,” said a lawyer.

This means that the petitioners against the FPA would have to start their legal battle with National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), power distribution companies and other stakeholders before a new judge.

The petitioners in November last year approached the IHC when Nepra allowed the distribution companies of the territories of Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta and Sukkur to charge FPA in electricity bills.According to Barrister Sehri, after the court order, the nine distribution companies have to refund Rs77 billion to the consumers, which they had received as FPA since July 2011 to January 2012, when restrained the distribution companies from collecting fuel price adjustment till final adjudication of the case.

IHC spokesman Tariq Channa, when asked the fate of over 600 short orders of various cases, said the matter regarding permanent appointment of Justice Siddiqui and extension of Justice Qureshi is pending in the Supreme Court.

“If the apex court would decide the matter in their favour then there would be no need for fresh hearing of these cases.”

“If otherwise, the IHC administration would take up this matter in accordance with the law,” he added.

Another issue to have been hit is the 25 petitions filed against the promotions of hundreds of bureaucrats to BPS-20 and BPS-21.

The court on November 13 had passed a short order and declared “illegal” the criteria set in 2005 by the government for promoting its officers to BPS-20 and BPS-21 while hearing the petitions of commissioner inland revenue and others.

The court ruled that the award of 15 marks for promotion left at the discretion of the Central Selection Board (CSB) of the Establishment Division clashed with a 2010 judgment of the Supreme Court.

Previously, the promotions were decided entirely on the basis of the officer’s Annual Confidential Report (ACR) and Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs). The share of the reports was reduced to 85 marks on a scale of 100 marks.

This uncertainty, however, would be a breathing space to those judges who have been appointed in the sessions courts of Islamabad in violation of the standard quota.

Justice Siddiqui on November 7 passed a short order on the petitions of Islamabad High Court bar, district bar Islamabad and a lawyer Mohammad Waqas Malik directing for sending back those sessions court judges who had been appointed to the lower judiciary in violation of the quota as defined in the Islamabad Judicial Service Rules 2011, which was not more than 12 per cent for each of the four provinces, two per cent for Fata and 50 per cent for Islamabad Capital Territory.

According to the statistics provided by IHC official, out of 39 sessions court judges, 14 belong to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,  five are from Sindh and Balochistan, three from Punjab, two from Fata and 17 from Islamabad capital territory.

The contention of the petitioners was that the Islamabad High Court  administration did not follow the Judicial Services Rules with the inductions: “In the first phase of the appointments, 50 per cent quota of Islamabad was completely neglected and in the second round it was again reduced below 50 per cent.”

Likewise, a short order in which the appointment of Mohammad Amjad Iqbal Qureshi as member Anti-Dumping Appellate Tribunal was declared illegal by Justice Siddiqui also became ineffective and the same would be decided after the IHC administration would remand the case to any other judge.

The federal government on July 26 had appointed Mr Qureshi as member in the Anti-Dumping Appellate Tribunal, Islamabad, on contract basis for three years.

The IHC deciding petition of his predecessor Arshad Manzoor declared the appointment of Mr Qureshi as illegal.