ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Thursday restrained Naeem Bukhari from working as chairman Pakistan Television (PTV), and said the process of appointment must not indicate that it was meant to benefit a predetermined candidate.
A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the petitions of a citizen, Arsalan Farrukh and others, and barred Bukhari from exercising his powers as the chairman PTV.
The IHC bench lauded Bukhari’s stance that he has refused to accept salary or other benefits and perks related to his office, but said this is not a relevant consideration for ignoring the law regarding appointment as director or chairman of the Corporation.
The IHC referred to the Supreme Court’s judgment regarding appointment of chairman PTV.
Justice Minallah stated, “This Court while exercising restraint directs the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to place a fresh summary along with a copy of this order before the worthy Prime Minister and members of the Federal Cabinet. The latter are expected to take appropriate decisions, inter alia, having regard to the aforementioned principles and law highlighted by the Supreme Court in the judgment of Qasmi’s case supra.”
He added, “The appointment of respondent no 6 [Naeem Bukhari] has not been found to have been made in accordance with the principles and law laid down by the Supreme Court in the Qasmi’s case supra, therefore, it would be appropriate to restrain respondent no.6 from exercising powers and functions as Chairman of the Corporation till the next date fixed.”
Mentioning the apex court verdict, the bench said that the federal government is empowered to appoint a director to the Board of the Corporation but it is mandatory for the latter to observe the procedure prescribed under clause (iii) of Sl. No.141 of the Esta Code read with the Public Sector Companies (Corporate Governance) Rules, 2013 and other enabling provisions.
It added that it is mandatory for the federal government to ensure transparency, merit and fairness in the appointment of directors.
The process of appointment must not indicate that it was meant to benefit a predetermined candidate and the appointment of the chairman of the Board of the Corporation can only be made in the prescribed manner and not otherwise by the federal government.
The IHC bench continued that the summary, proposing a candidate to be appointed as a director having more than the upper age limit of 65 years, must contain justification for relaxation.
The reasons must be specific and relevant in order to justify the extraordinary act of relaxation of the prescribed age and the Federal Government i.e. the prime minister and the members of the Cabinet while granting relaxation of age have to record reasons to justify their decision while the discretionary power vested in the Federal Government to appoint a director in an incorporated autonomous controlled entity cannot be exercised in a manner that appears as “cherry picking”.
The court mentioned that during the hearing, Mazhar Ali Memon, director general (E&P), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting appeared before the court along with the deputy attorney general and presented the two summaries forwarded to the federal cabinet.
The IHC chief justice noted, “Regrettably, it appears that the process was initiated and subsequently summaries were placed before the Federal Cabinet in disregard and violation of the aforementioned principles and law enunciated by the august Supreme Court in the Qasmi’s case supra. Moreover, the relaxation of age was proposed in a perfunctory manner because no plausible justification was mentioned for relaxation of age.”
He also stated that it was not sufficient in order to justify relaxation of the upper age limit to merely state that the proposed persons were eligible and qualified.
A person can only be appointed as a director if he or she, as the case may be, is a “prominent personality with impeccable professional expertise and fulfills the criteria fit and proper as laid down in the Rules of 2013”.
He maintained that this obviously cannot be a valid justification for relaxation of age because a departure from the prescribed rule is being made.
The relaxation is, therefore, required to be justified.
The bench said that the entire process whereby respondent no 6 and other directors were appointed was in violation of the aforementioned principles and law.
The court adjourned the hearing until February 2nd.