IHC suspends KPT chief removal notice till its withdrawal

Islamabad High Court stops unauthorized people from interfering in trust’s affairs


Saqib Bashir April 17, 2020
PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday disposed of a petition against removal of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) Chairman Rear Admiral (retd) Jamil Akhtar after the federal government signalled its willingness to withdraw the notification for Akhtar’s removal.

The former PML-N government appointed Jamil Akhtar as the KPT chairman on November 23, 2017 for a period of three years, but the PTI government on March 25 removed him from the post prematurely, citing different reasons including alleged irregularities.

The former rear admiral later moved the IHC claiming that the federal government had issued the impugned notification of March 25 without placing the matter before the federal cabinet.

The petition said Akhtar, by virtue of his office as the KPT chairman, had also been one of the KPT trustees and that once a trustee or the chairman was appointed, then his removal could only be made on the grounds clearly written in the Section 11 read with Section 15 and 15(A) of the KPT Act, 1886

Taking up the petition on March 28, an IHC bench headed by Chief Justice Athar Minallah suspended the order terminating Jamil Akhtar’s services.

On the last date of hearing on April 9, the judge had raised serious questions about interference of Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi in the KPT affairs and in his 5-page order issued on Thursday he stopped all “unauthorized people and entities” from interfering in the KPT affairs.

The court observed that any person, entity, ministry or department not explicitly mentioned in the Act of 1886 has no jurisdiction or authority to interfere in the affairs of the trust.

“This court further expects that the affairs of the trust will be dealt with by the federal government in accordance with its statutory powers and that there will be no unauthorized interference in violation of the explicit provisions of the Act of 1886,” it said.

On Thursday, the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan appeared before the bench and said he was in the process of recommending to the government to withdraw the impugned notifications.

He stated that he further intended to advise the federal government to proceed strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1886 and having regard to the principles of procedural fairness and due process embedded in Article 10-A of the Constitution.

The court, while appreciating the “fair stance” taken by the AGP, noted that the impugned notifications shall remain suspended till the advice of the AGP is considered by the government and a decision is taken accordingly.

“The petitioner would be at liberty to file an application for restoration of the petition in the event that the advice of the learned AGP is not acted upon by the federal government,” it said.

The court also refused to hear a petition filed by trade union leaders against the KPT chairman and said maintaining discipline within statutory organizations and discouraging scandalous and frivolous litigation are relevant factors for determining maintainability of a constitutional petition.

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