Two senior education officials denied pre-arrest bail in NAB reference

Dawn

HYDERABAD: A division bench of Sindh High Court’s Hyderabad circuit on Thursday rejected pre-arrest bail pleas of two senior education department officers and confirmed the bails of another two suspects in the same matter, pertaining to a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference filed against them in the Hyderabad accountability court.
The pre-arrest bails earlier granted to Jalil Ahmed Lashari, holding the charge of director education (schools) at Mirpurkhas in 2012, and Abdul Azeem Khan, then deputy secretary in the education and literacy department, were recalled. However, pre-arrest bails to Kamla Devi, then district education officer (secondary and higher secondary) at Mirpurkhas, and Keval Ram, then district education officer (elementary) were confirmed on the same terms and conditions on which they were earlier granted to them.
The bench comprised Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Fahim Ahmed Siddiqui.
The order in four identical cases was authored by Justice Kalhoro after hearing the case on April 4, April 17 and May 9. It was announced on Thursday.
According to brief facts of the case, NAB had found that 208 candidates were recruited in violation of the procedure and direction of the department and without verification of qualification certificates from the relevant boards and universities. Fourteen candidates had not even submitted their educational certificates before they were appointed whereas 25 others were appointed in a cadre other than the one which they had applied for or appeared in the relevant written test.
NAB has alleged that a loss of Rs127.48 million was caused to the exchequer in the shape of salaries paid to them. It had filed a reference, assigning the role of each of the suspects, in an investigation report.
Petitioners’ counsel stated that the allegations levelled against their clients in the reference were baseless. They argued that the selection committee concerned was properly constituted in accordance with the directives of the department whereas appointments were made on a merit basis after following the due process.
They claimed that the testimonials of candidates were verified and letters were written to the boards and universities concerned. They contested NAB’s claim that 25 candidates were selected in the cadre other than the one they had applied for.
The court noted that the main role [in the reference] was assigned to Jalil Ahmed Lashari, who was in charge of the overall recruitment process. He was required to constitute a recruitment committee. The committee he notified without secretary’s permission comprised himself, Kamla Devi, Keval Ram and another person, Ismail Khaskheli, who was a retired educationist. He formed an assessment and monitoring committee (AMC) before the written test, which was held on April 29, 2012. The AMC was an eyewash as it was not entrusted with written sheets for checking but signatures of three AMC members were obtained and the final merit list was announced on April 30.
The court was sceptical as to how the committee checked answer sheets of 882 candidates within just one night. The court put this question to defence counsel but they could not give a satisfactory reply.
Most answer sheets were found unsigned though with only marks mentioned on them.
The court observed that Lashari, despite irregularities, issued offer letters to 210 candidates although 14 of them did not submit their educational certificates and nine had no relevant degrees required for the posts.
The court also noted that Lashari did not make efforts to ensure verification of qualification of candidates to thwart fake appointments. However, in any case before issuing appointment and posting orders pursuant to offer letters, this exercise was required to be carried out by Lashari but he failed to do so. Resultantly ineligible candidates having bogus or irrelevant degrees, as verified by NAB subsequently during investigations, were appointed.
The court further noted that ultimately in Nov 2012, after almost five months, such verification was sought by him and he was informed by relevant boards and universities about bogus degrees of 139 candidates but he did not take action against them and when a complaint against the appointments was filed before the Mirpurkhas region omb¬u¬dsman, he defended them and reaffirmed verification and genuineness of educational certificates of the appointees in his comments.
“This shows prima facie not only his involvement but fact that verification sought by him was a sham exercise to fulfil a formality and it was not meant to check induction of ineligible candidates in department.
“It was not a simple case of bona fide misuse of authority on his part but he acted with a design and ulterior motives to induct ineligible candidates in government service and thus has benefited them. He was fully aided by Abdul Azeem Khan, the then deputy secretary education who played a pivotal role in ensuring release of salaries to ineligible candidates.
“No doubt secretary education vide Nov 1, 2012 letter had authorised him to countersign on his behalf list of new recruits for purpose of releasing them salaries.
“Kamla Devi and Kewal Ram being subordinate of Lashari had followed his directives and except for recommending candidates for appointment which they did on basis of result sheets signed by AMC, they have no active role as alleged against them,” the order said.

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