ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared the appointment of Director General Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Marshal (retd) Khalid Chaudhry as null and void and said the government was responsible for an increase in the cost of the new Islamabad airport project.
The court, while suspending the notification of Air Marshal (retd) Khalid Chaudhry as the DG CAA, ruled in its short order that his appointment was made in a non-transparent manner and also without strictly following the law.
“The notification of appointment of Air Marshal (retd) Khalid Chaudhry is declared illegal, void ab initio without any legal consequences,” the order said.A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed heard the New Benazir Bhutto International airport case.
The court directed the competent authority to ensure the appointment of a new DG CAA in a transparent manner and in accordance with law.Soon after the court announced its short order, the federal government removed Khalid Chaudhry as the DG CAA and Air Vice Marshal (retd) Khawar Hussain, Deputy Director General, was given the additional charge of DG CAA till further orders.
Advocate Fasihuddin Khan Vardag, the petitioner, had challenged the appointment of Khalid Chaudhry as the DG CAA and had claimed that the delay had escalated the cost of the project from Rs35 billion to Rs73 billion. According to him, Khalid Ch was appointed the DG CAA through an executive arrangement made by the then defence minister without examining the legal formalities.
The court, in its order while referring to the project of the airport, observed that it suffered from illegality, corruption and corrupt practices and the delay was due to the legal deeds, omission, and the commission of the consultant Louis Berger and all the other concerned persons responsible for preparing the design and awarding the contract to contractors.
The court noted that Al-Tariq (Pvt) Ltd was responsible for the delay as the cost of the NBBIA project had escalated from Rs37 billion to Rs73 billion and there seemed to be no possibility of its completion in the near future i.e. in the year 2014 or 2015. Therefore, in view of that, their cases are required to be thoroughly probed on the basis of tentative investigation report of Shahid Niaz and the audit report of Auditor General of Pakistan and the stand taken by the site Project Director CAA Mohammad Musharraf.
Shahid Niaz’s report has pointed out the reasons for an increase in the cost of the project, identified the persons responsible for the state of affairs and suggested ways and means to bring the project on track for its expeditious completion.
The court noted that as the federal government had already made reference for inquiries/investigation and to fix the criminal liabilities on persons/contractors involved in the delay, it was therefore directed that the DG Federal Investigation Agency should supervise the investigation himself and complete the probe expeditiously.
“As the Auditor General of Pakistan in its report had maintained that Rs155.64 million were paid to joint venture of Lagan Company, Techno Associate and Habib Construction in excess to the required payment, the LTH JV was required to submit that amount with the SC registrar,” said the order.
The court asked the contractors and consultants that they may take back their passports from the SC registrar’s office but they have to take undertakings that whenever they would be required by the investigation agency, they would cooperate with them without any hesitation.
The court directed the FIA to proceed against the consultants and contractors in accordance with law if they failed to cooperate with the agency.Earlier, Secretary CAA Division Muhammad Ali Gardezi informed the court that the NBBIA project from its very inception was not conceived and planned properly. Meanwhile, the court disposed of the matter after declaring the appointment of the DG CAA as null and void.