Supreme Court asks Sindh govt to probe education dept recruitments

Supreme Court set aside the judgment of the Sindh High Court on recruitments in the Sindh Education Department and directed the provincial chief secretary to constitute an inquiry committee to examine the entire appointment process of the 56 aspiring applicants

September 23, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the judgment of the Sindh High Court on recruitments in the Sindh Education Department and directed the provincial chief secretary to constitute an inquiry committee to examine the entire appointment process of the 56 aspiring applicants.

The petitioners had challenged their dismissal from service after recruitment after completing all the codal formalities. The Addl AG had, however, described the entire recruitment process as a fraudulent exercise.

The court on Friday issued the judgment authored by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar that sets aside the judgment of the Sindh High Court after converting the petitions into appeals. A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and comprising Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Musarat Hilali, heard the petitions on August 3, 2023.

As many as 56 petitioners, including Muhammad Yasin, Shabbir Ahmed Channa, Inayat Ullah and Aamir Hussain Nizam ud Din, had challenged in the Supreme Court the consolidated judgment passed by the learned Sindh High Court whereby their petitions were dismissed on the grounds that they had failed to prove that their appointments were made through the competitive process and their documents were also not found to be genuine. They had impleaded the province of Sindh through its secretary education and Literacy Department at Karachi and others, District Education Officer Ghotki at Mirpur Mathelo and others.

The court directed the Chief Secretary, Sindh, to constitute within 10 days, an Inquiry Committee to examine the entire appointment process of the 56 aspiring applicants. It directed that the inquiry committee should comprise Additional Secretary of Education, Additional Secretary, SGA&CD, and Deputy Secretary (Law), School Education and Literacy Department.

The court directed that the Inquiry Committee shall issue notice to the 56 petitioners and also to the departmental representatives for joining the inquiry proceedings. “The committee shall examine the entire appointment process of the 56 petitioners and shall also allow them to produce relevant documents with ample opportunity of being heard, so that it may be verified whether the petitioners joined the appointment process in terms of the advertisement and after appearing and qualifying the aptitude test on merits, the appointment letters were issued to them after complying with the codal formalities, and if the appointment letters were found to be fake after due satisfaction, then what punitive action was taken against the person responsible for the fake recruitment and how the petitioners who joined recruitment process in response to the advertisement are responsible,” says the judgment.

The court further directed that the committee may also call for the entire record of the recruitment process questioned in the present proceedings to examine the authenticity of appointment letters issued to the petitioners. “The committee shall complete the inquiry within a period of 90 days from the date of constituting the inquiry committee and the result of such inquiry shall be communicated to the petitioners in writing,” the judgment added.

The court held that the petitioners may avail of appropriate legal remedy in accordance with the law if found to be aggrieved and dissatisfied with the result of the inquiry. The court noted in the judgment that the learned counsel for the petitioners argued that after joining service, no salary was paid to the petitioners for the period they actually performed their duties. “This aspect shall also be examined by the Inquiry Committee and, if any salary is found due during the period the petitioners actually served, the same shall be paid after fulfilment of requisite the codal formalities within 30 days of the conclusion of the inquiry,” says the judgment.

The court directed its office to transmit a copy of this judgment to the Chief Secretary Sindh and the Advocate General Sindh for compliance. “The learned counsel for the petitioners argued that the findings rendered by the learned High Court in paragraph No.8 of the impugned judgment, that the petitioners were employed on a contractual basis, is misconceived. He invited our attention to the appointment letters attached with one of the Civil Petitions (C.P. No.904/2023) to substantiate that the petitioners were wrongly considered to be contractual employees. He further argued that the appointment letters were issued after fulfilling all the codal formalities according to the advertisement published as per the sanctioned posts.”

It was further avowed that the petitioners also appeared in the aptitude test conducted by the Education Department and, after qualifying for the said test, they were issued appointment letters. The court noted that the learned Addl. AG argued that the appointment letters of all the petitioners were found forged in the inquiry. It was further argued that no record of the petitioners is available in the concerned office and the appointments were made without the approval of the District Recruitment Committee (“DRC”), rather the former District Education Officer (“DEO”) managed illegal appointments and an inquiry was also conducted against him.

It was further contended that the inquiry officer also submitted a report to the effect that the offer letters, service books and medical fitness certificates produced by the petitioners were bogus and manipulated. “The finding of the High Court, that in the advertisement the number of vacancies was not provided and therefore it was a sham advertisement, is also beyond our comprehension as it is not a mandatory condition that in all circumstances, the number of vacancies should be mentioned in the advertisement failing which it will be considered a nullity,” says the judgment.

“In our considered view, before declaring the appointments illegal or taking any drastic action against the petitioners, a drastic action should have been taken against the responsible person who committed illegality, if any, at the departmental level,” the judgment maintained.

The court held that the beneficiaries of the appointments cannot be blamed alone because primarily the authority who had issued appointment letters is bound to be punished first rather than the petitioners who had commenced their duties in view of the appointment letters. “Keeping in mind all the attending circumstances, the department was bound to issue notice to the petitioners to show cause as to why their services should not be terminated and, in response, the petitioners might have appeared with the defence that the appointments were not illegal but issued after due process,” says the judgment.

The court held that the petitioners should have been afforded an opportunity of hearing, which is a fundamental right enshrined under Article 10A of the Constitution adding that the doctrine of natural justice is grounded on the astuteness and clear-sightedness of affording a right of audience before any prejudicial action is taken, therefore it is an inescapable obligation of all judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative authorities to ensure justice according to the sagacity of the law.