In a written order, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has called out the new rules that have helped people circumvent hiring regulations in Punjab.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has lamented that dictatorship in the country undermined the civil service structure by inserting a new law, which empowered the Punjab chief minister to relax rules.
“Rule 23 permits ‘relaxation of the rules’. Rule 23 was inserted into the [Punjab Civil Servants Appointment and Conditions of Service Rules, 1974] on December 24, 1985, at a time when a serving general [Ziaul Haq] was ruling the federation… and another general was in charge of Punjab as its Martial Law Administrator,” said the apex court’s written order in a hiring case.
The order was issued after the SC’s two-judge bench, comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmad and Justice Qazi Faez Isa, rejected pleas filed by 14 sacked Punjab government employees who were appointed and later regularised by then chief minister Pervez Elahi during his tenure.
The petitioners were appointed on contract for a period of three years but they were ‘regularised’ shortly after one year in purported relaxation of the contract appointment policy and the rules.
The written order, authored by Justice Isa, said dictatorship undermined the civil service structure by enabling the ‘relaxation of rules’, a euphemism for contravening the rules, adding that the very purpose of having rules is defeated if these can be circumvented.
“[The rule 23 says] chief minister may, for special reasons to be recorded in writing, relax any one of the rules in any individual case of hardship, to the extent prescribed by him.”
The court noted that Rule 23 states that “any of the rules” may be relaxed by the CM in “any individual case of hardship” and “for special reasons to be recorded in writing” and “to the extent prescribed”.
“However, not a single one of these stipulated preconditions were even mentioned, let alone fulfilled, and were flouted. A completely illegal exercise was carried out in purported exercise of rule 23 of the Rules,” the judgment said.
Justice Isa noted that subordinate legislation cannot contravene the law. However, the manner in which rule 23 of the rules was applied to induct the petitioners as regular civil servants did just that.
The court also observed that bureaucrats must remember that they are servants of the state and the people and that their abject subservience, in this case to the former CM Ilahi, destroyed the confidence of the people in the bureaucracy.
“Mr GM Sikander, the principal secretary to the chief minister, implemented the wish of the CM and did so by resorting to absurd reasons without compunction, and he apparently did so in his enthusiasm to appease and serve the person of the CM, and not the province and its people.
“The conduct demonstrated by a bureaucrat in recommending illegal appointments is inexcusable. A summary should not be moved in disregard of the law and if it is being submitted at the behest of the CM, the concerned secretary or secretaries should note this and point out that it contravened the law,” said the order.
A version of this article was originally published by The Express Tribune, Pakistan.