IHC sets aside decision on five regulatory bodies

Says govt at liberty to place the matter before Council of Common Interests


Our Correspondent March 28, 2017
PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court set aside on Monday the federal government’s decision to transfer the administrative control of five regulatory bodies from the Cabinet Division to the respective ministries.

Justice Athar Minallah of the IHC annulled the impugned notification of the government placing Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) and Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) under the relevant ministries.

Conflict of interest: Placing regulatory bodies under ministries challenged

“For reasons to be recorded later, the instant petition is allowed and the impugned notification, dated 19-12-2016, is hereby set aside,” Justice Minallah stated in the order.

The order said that the federal government shall be at liberty to place the matter before the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for its decision pursuant to powers conferred under Article 154 of the Constitution.

The constitutional provision, Justice Minallah noted, unambiguously provides that formulation and regulation of policies in relation to matters in Part II of the Federal Legislative List exclusively falls within the ambit of powers and jurisdiction of the Council.

Likewise, he stated, the CCI has been expressly mandated to exercise supervision and control over the regulatory authorities established under the federal laws.

Justice Minallah ruled that the arrangement prior to issuance of notification, the regulatory authorities being dealt with by the federal government through the Cabinet Division shall continue till varied, altered or amended pursuant to a decision by the CCI.

Muhammad Nawaz, a worker of the Pakistan Justice and Democratic Party (PJDP), through his counsel Sheikh Ahsanuddin, had approached the IHC challenging the government’s decision, urging the court to declare the move unlawful.

Regulatory quagmire: IHC seeks reply from government

The prime minister through the principal secretary, federal government through secretary cabinet division, secretaries of the ministry of petroleum and natural resources, ministry of water and power division, ministry of information technology, finance division, Ogra, Nepra, PTA, PPRA, FAB, and the All Pakistan CNG Association were listed as respondents.

PJDP, which is headed by former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, had assailed the Cabinet Division’s notification of December 19 which placed administrative control of the five regulatory bodies under the ministries whose activities and functions they were supposed to watch, monitor and regulate under the law.

In the petition, Ahsanuddin argued that the government’s move violated Articles 153 and 154 of the Constitution, which deal with the CCI role in issues relating to gas, electricity and petroleum.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2017.

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