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November 9, 2018

State-run TV MD case: Get Rs197 million back, says SC

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November 9, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday declared the appointment of Ataul Haq Qasmi as managing director of the state-run TV as illegal and directed the federal government to appoint a full-time MD after fulfilling all the legal, procedural and codal formalities strictly in accordance with law.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umer Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsen, announced a reserved judgment in a suo motu case regarding the appointment of Qasmi.

The 48-page judgment authored by Justice Saqib Nisar, declared the appointment as well as other perks and privileges availed by Qasmi illegal and held that he was not entitled to such payments. The court directed that an amount of Rs197,867,491 be recovered from Qasmi as a director and the chairman of the state-run TV, as well as from Pervaiz Rashid, ex-minister for information, Ishaq Dar, ex-finance minister, and Fawad Hasan Fawad, ex-secretary to the former PM.

“On account of lack of fiduciary behaviour, Qasmi is declared to be ineligible to be appointed as a director of any company from the date of this judgment onwards,” the court ruled, adding the administrative actions taken by Qasmi are beyond the scope of duties of a chairman, therefore, all such orders passed by him during his tenure are declared to be illegal and void ab initio.

The short order read out by Justice Umer Ata Bandial held Pervaiz Rashid and Ishaq Dar as well as Fawad Hassan Fawad responsible for Qasmi's appointment and the financial benefits he had received. The court declared Qasmi as a "beneficiary of illegal acts". Pervaiz Rashid and Dar are guilty of "(ignoring) the law and disregarded their duty to confer benefits on Qasmi", while Fawad is guilty of his "failure to act with due diligence in processing the summary for appointment of the director of the state-run TV from a person-specific recommendation as opposed to a panel of three names as required by the Esta Code".

The court noted that the state-run TV suffered a loss of Rs197,867,491 and ordered that the sum be recovered from Ataul Haq Qasmi (50 percent), Pervaiz Rashid (20 percent), Ishaq Dar (20 percent) and Fawad Hassan Fawad (10 percent). The court observed that "irregularities/illegalities" were made in the appointment of Qasmi' as managing director as well as the chairman of the state broadcaster. The judgment ruled that summaries were moved for relaxation of the upper-age limit of 65 years for such appointment and for the approval of a handsome salary package of Rs1,500,000 in addition to other perks.

Also, the verdict noted that the federal government did not take into consideration the business management skills and experience of running a big company like the state-run TV which are the basic requirements for an MD/chairman. The judgment held Qasmi responsible for the state-run TV’s "sharp decline both financially and in its reputation" because he lacked the "skill and experience of running a company". The detailed verdict noted that during the course of the case, the attorney general informed the court that the state broadcaster’s chairperson is elected by its board and that the government or the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage has no role in the decision. However, the counsel representing Qasmi contended that the appointment of Qasmi was made on the recommendation of the federal government in "exercise of its discretion that it thought fit at the relevant time and this court has no jurisdiction to interfere with such discretion/decision-making power."

The verdict noted that Fawad Hasan Fawad conceded that the past practice of seeking verbal approval of the PM was a lapse. “He also admitted that the proper process for the appointment of Qasmi was not followed,” the court ruled, adding that being a senior civil servant and the secretary to PM, it is reasonably expected of him to know the relevant law including the Esta Code, particularly that regarding the appointment to posts in autonomous bodies, etc. for which the PM is appointing authority. The verdict found Fawad to have failed in his duty as a civil servant to act responsibly and with due diligence as he did not question the summary(ies) placed before the PM and instead went ahead and sought approval as a matter of routine.

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