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Thursday April 18, 2024

Detailed SC ruling on pleas in Qasmi case issued

The court held that the factual determination of the purported loss was arbitrary and also incorrect

By Sohail Khan
April 03, 2024
A general overview of the Supreme Court of Pakistans building. — SC website/File
A general overview of the Supreme Court of Pakistan's building. — SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) has held that scope of review jurisdiction is limited, however, it can be invoked when a mistake of law or a factual error, having material consequences has occurred.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan issued the detailed judgment in the review petitions of Ataul Haq Qasmi, former finance minister Ishaq Dar, former federal minister for Information Pervez Rashid and former principal secretary to ex-prime minister Fawad Hassan Fawad.

On March 21, the court after accepting the review petitions had held that there was no evidence of corruption and nepotism found in the appointment process of Ataul Haq Qasmi, former managing director Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV).

The court after removing the ban on the appointment of Ataul Haq Qasmi as a director in any government institution in the future declared incorrect, its earlier verdict to collect money from Ataul Haq Qasmi, Pervaiz Rasheed, Ishaq Dar and Fawad Hasan Fawad.

Meanwhile, the court after reviewing the records and hearing the arguments of the petitioner’s lawyers declared that the lawyer of PTV has admitted in the court that in its main decision, the loss of Rs197,867,491 to the TV and the determination of the amount of Rs197,867,491/ is not correct. Later the court after accepting the review petitions had disposed of the matter.

On Tuesday in 5-page detailed judgment authored by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa held that Article 184(3) of the Constitution is an extraordinary power bestowed by the Constitution on the Supreme Court and it may be invoked when Fundamental Rights of the people are under attack or are being undermined. “It is questionable whether the emoluments of a single individual would justify invoking the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 184(3)”, the court noted, adding that the applicability of referred Articles 18 and 25 is also not self-evident, and it has not been explained in the judgment under review, how either of these two provisions were attracted.

The court held that the factual determination of the purported loss was arbitrary and also incorrect. Qasmi was paid just a little more than his predecessor, which if inflation is factored it would be justified and it was a material error to assume that Qasmi’s programme’s air-time was lost revenue; it could also be contended that his programme contributed towards PTV’s earnings.

“It would not be fair to penalize someone on the basis of mere conjecture”, says the judgment, adding that there is no evidence to suggest that an amount of Rs197,867,491 was paid to Qasmi or that he had caused such a loss to PTV. As regards the salary of one million and five hundred thousand rupees being paid to Qasmi is concerned, the court noted that it was just a little over what was paid to the previous MD, which was an important fact which was overlooked and also the fact that Qasmi’s increased salary a few years later could be justified on account of inflation.

“In these circumstances, to seek the recovery of an arbitrarily determined loss was neither legally permissible nor factually correct”, the detailed judgment held.

Moreover, the court noted that to make liable the then minister for information, minister for finance and the secretary to the prime minister with regard to half the purported loss amount, and to pay it, had no legal basis, was without precedence and was not justified, and to do so when there was nothing on record to suggest that they had financially benefited from Qasmi’s appointment nor was there any proof of nepotism on the record. “Therefore, for the foregoing reasons, these review petitions are allowed and judgment dated 8 November 2018 passed in HRC No.3654 of 2018 is hereby recalled,” the judgment concluded.