SC sends Civil Aviation Authority DG packing

SC sends Civil Aviation Authority DG packing
SC sends Civil Aviation Authority DG packing

ISLAMABAD: Declaring the appointment of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Director General Air Marshal (r) Khalid Chaudhry as non-transparent, illegal, void and ab initio, and without any legal consequences, the Supreme Court has directed the federal government to appoint a new director general in accordance with the rules.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, issued the order during the hearing of a petition by Advocate Asaf Fasihuudin Vardag against the appointment of the incumbent CAA DG over irregularities in the construction of the New Benazir Bhutto International Airport (NBBIA). In its short order the bench noted, “For the reasons to be recorded later, it is held that the appointment of DG CAA has been made in a non-transparent manner as well as without strictly following the available laws on the subject, therefore the notification of appointment is declared illegal, void ab initio and without any legal consequence.”

About the NBBIA project, the court observed that it suffers from irregularities, corruption and corrupt practices and that the delay in the early completion of the airport was caused because of illegal deals, omissions and commissions by the consultants, including Messers Louise Berger and all other individuals responsible for selecting the project site, preparation of design and award of contract to the contractors.

The court observed that the contractors responsible for the completion of different packages, except Messers Al-Tariq Pvt Ltd, are prime facie responsible for causing the delay in the completion of the project, and on account of their conduct the cost of the project has escalated. Therefore, subject to all just exceptions, the court said their cases required to be probed thoroughly on the basis of tentative assessment of January 23, 2013 report of Lt Gen (r) Shahid Niaz commission as well as the audit report of the auditor general and the stand taken by the project director.

The court noted that the government had already hinted at conducting inquiries/investigations to fix criminal liability against the contractors and ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) DG to supervise the investigations himself and try to complete them expeditiously. The court directed the government to take all necessary steps to ensure the completion of the project as early as possible. The court order said that subject to the contractual agreements with consultants, designers and contractors to whom different contracts were awarded, the work on the new airport would continue.

It said that the competent authority may, however, consider constituting a committee to monitor the progress and ensure early completion of the project. Referring to the contractors JV (Logan–Tech–Habib), a joint venture between the Logan Construction Company, Technical Associates (Pvt) Ltd and Habib Construction Company, the court noted that the auditor general had reported in its report over-payment of Rs 1.55 billion. And since the audit objection has not been removed, the JV (LTH) has been ordered to pay the same amount in seven days with an intimation to the registrar of the Supreme Court. The amount can be adjusted later in case of claims for the work done.

The court told the contractors and the consultants that they may take back their passports from the SC registrar office, but they have to give undertakings that whenever they are required by the investigative agency they shall cooperate with them without any hesitation.