While declaring the Sacked Employees (reinstatement) Act 2010 unconstitutional on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that no illegal benefit could be granted under cover of legislation.
The court declaration will have an impact on the jobs of 9,000 employees of various federal ministries and allied departments who were inducted during the late Benazir Bhutto regime in 1995-96 and then were sacked during the Nawaz Sharif era. Thousands of them would have to pay back the financial benefits which they received against the period they were sacked.
The Pakistan Peoples Party inducted thousands of employees in 25 federal ministries and allied departments in 1995-96. The issue started in 1997 when the PML-N government terminated all government appointments made by PPP in 1995 and 1996, calling them ‘political’ ones.
These employees approached the court for their reinstatement and took their case to the Supreme Court level, but failed to convince the judges of their case. The situation stayed this way until a decade later when in 2010 the ruling PPP government introduced the Sacked Employees (reinstatement) Act 2010 (SEA) and managed to get it passed from both the National Assembly and Senate by the end of 2010.
Induction of such employees had adversely impacted promotions of employees of Intelligence Bureau, National Highway Authority, M/s Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd, Overseas Pakistani Foundation, State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan, Civil Aviation Authority, WAPDA, Trading Corporation of Pakistan. Consequently, employees of these departments were engaged in litigation to seek remedy against violation of their rights from the day the PPP inducted such 9000 employees on political basis.
The Supreme Court had reserved a verdict in the matter 20 months ago. Announcing its 42-page verdict in the matter on Tuesday, a three-member bench of Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan disposed of a number of pleas.
Justice Mushir Alam, who retired on Tuesday, authored the verdict saying, “ The only cavil to such a proposition is if a vested right was created, however, that can only be generated through a valid enactment. Furthermore, neither are the benefits accrued under the Act of 2010 neither a past and closed transaction as the rights created were through a non est legislation from its inception”.
Declaring the Act unconstitutional the judge said, “Therefore, given the nature of the Act of 2010, and its blatant unconstitutional mechanism, a vested right could not have been created, let alone the vested right be protected under the doctrine of a past and closed transaction”.
According to the operative part of the verdict all the beneficiaries of the Act of 2010, who are still in service, will go back to their previous positions where they were on the day when the Act of 2010 has taken effect. The court said that cases of employees who have retired and/or passed away are past and closed transactions saying , “We do not find it appropriate to interfere in their cases as it will be an exercise in futility”.
The court gave relaxation to employees saying, “However, it would be inequitable to reverse any monetary benefits received by them under the Act of 2010 for the period they have served and those shall remain intact as they were granted against service”. However, the court ruled that reinstated employees who have received a lump sum amount against the period when they remained sacked, shall reverse the amount to national kitty.
The writer heads a leading news wire service ‘The Law Today Pakistan’ commonly known as TLTP. He has a special focus on news relating to superior courts adjudication, access to right of information, civil, political, social and economic rights under the approach that existing cyber regime realization ensures procedural fairness in administrative law. He can be reached at email@example.com