KARACHI: The Sindh High Court observed that the chairman of Pakistan Steel (PS) and some delinquent officers were responsible for misappropriation of an amount meant for gratuity and provident funds of its retired employees and ordered to attach the assets and immovable properties of the PS and account of the ministry of industries and production till further orders.
The SHC further said that the responsible officials must be taken to task and the matter be referred to the National Accountability Bureau for investigation.
A large number of retired employees of the PS petitioned the SHC in 2017 contending that they were not being paid their gratuity, leave encashment and provident fund since 2013.
A two-judge bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Shafi Siddiqui in its order said that the controversy relating to gratuity and provident fund was pending since last many hearings and time and again the court had asked the respondents to suggest ways and means to supplement and cater to these legitimate demands of petitioners, but they gave a deaf ear to the orders.
Matter regarding embezzlement of gratuity and provident funds of retired workers by chairman, officers referred to NAB
All that was asked for was release of gratuity and provident fund, which should have been retained by the PS in a separate account, it added.
In the previous hearing, it was recorded in the presence of the attorney general that in lieu of sale of 1,500 acres of land of the PS, around Rs206 billion was available and on this hearing they were supposed to give details of such sale consideration, but a deputy attorney general and lawyer for the PS denied that any payment was received in this regard, the bench said in the order.
It further stated that as far as supplementary grant by the federal government was concerned, they submitted that the matter was placed before the Economic Coordination Committee, but the ECC rejected it.
The order said that the amount of gratuity and provident fund was managed and maintained separately in an independent account as a trust and the PS claimed that the amount in question was though kept under a trust with them, was borrowed as a loan for the PS.
“The chairman and delinquent officers, whosoever were responsible for such misappropriation of the amount lying in an independent account should have been taken to task and the matter be referred to NAB to investigate and probe”, it added.
However, for the time being, the bench said that it was more concerned with payment of gratuity and provident fund to petitioners who had no other source of income.
“We have provided sufficient time to respondents but they failed, thus we have no alternate but to attach the assets/immovable properties of PS and the account of the Respondent No. 5 [ministry of industries and production] till further orders and detailed report may be submitted in this regard”, the SHC ruled.
However, the respondents assured the bench that they would take immediate steps to resolve the controversy while as for as the amount lying with the nazir of this court as gratuity and provident fund is concerned, the bench directed that it may be released to petitioners after proper verification and identification in terms of the report available on record and adjourned the matter till Sept 26.
Syed Umar Baqi and 850 other petitioners moved the SHC for not being paid their gratuity, leave encashment and provident funds.
CS, DG MDA summoned
Another division bench of the SHC on Thursday asked the chief secretary and the director general of the Malir Development Authority to appear on Sept 17 after an official of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation submitted that demarcation of land for the proposed truck and bus terminal on the Superhighway had not been made yet.
When a set of petitions about the issues of heavy vehicles and deteriorating traffic situation in the provincial metropolis came up for hearing before a two-judge bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, an additional advocate general, in compliance with the last order, submitted the minutes of a meeting convened on July 5.
However, the bench said that no viable solutions were mentioned in the minutes of the meeting.
The KMC project director of terminals again submitted that despite various approaches for demarcation of 100 acres of land situated on the Superhighway, no efforts had been made yet.
The bench put the DG MDA on notice to appear on next hearing and also asked the AAG to call the chief secretary to attend the proceedings at the next hearing.