Misuse of Authority by Politicians, Public Office Holders and Civil Servants

Misuse of Authority by Politicians, Public Office Holders and Civil Servants Actus Rea Appeal against Acquittal Burden of Proof Bureaucracy Duty Case Laws Criminal Appeal Criminal Law Deputation Employment & Incentives Fundamental Rights Good Governance Intelligible Differentia Judicial Review Knowledge - Criminal Law Litigation & Arbitration Locus Poenitentiae Mens Rea Mining Misuse of Authority National Accountability Bureau Nepotism OGDCL Political Patronage Promotion Public & Admin Law Re-Employment by Government Relaxation of Rules Rules of Business Selection Process Solutions - Criminal Law Supreme Court Transparency Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa in his judgment has decided the issue regarding misuse of authority by politicians, public office holders and civil servants in Criminal Appeal No. 264 of 2006.

1. In his capacity as a Federal Minister Anwar Saif Ullah Khan respondent forced his will upon a reluctant Chairman of a public sector Corporation and after relaxing the relevant rules he got 145 persons appointed to various jobs against the requirements of the Corporation only to please his political friends in the Parliament. The Lahore High Court, Lahore held that what the respondent did was in accord with the prevalent practice. Such implied acceptance of a culture of political patronage cannot be approved by us. The High Court had concluded that the respondent had no criminal intent in the matter. With respect to the High Court, we do not agree.

2. The facts of the case are that the respondent served as a Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources in the Federal Cabinet from 28.11.1994 to 05.11.1996. On 10.05.1997 a Reference was filed against the respondent by the Chief Ehtesab Commissioner before the Lahore High Court, Lahore under section 14(1) of the Ehtesab Ordinance, 1996 with an allegation of indulging in corruption and corrupt practices while holding a public office and upon promulgation of Ordinance No. XVIII of 1999 the said Reference stood transferred to the Accountability Court, Lahore, was numbered as Reference No. 4-B of 1999 and was treated as a Reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau under the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999. The precise allegation leveled against the respondent was that in his capacity as the Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources he had misused his authority by prevailing upon the Chairman, Oil & Gas Development Corporation and getting 145 persons recommended by some parliamentarians appointed to various jobs in the Oil & Gas Development Corporation and for this purpose he had relaxed the relevant rules. On 15.05.2000 the Accountability Court, Lahore framed a charge against the respondent for an offence under section 9(a)(vi) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 to which the respondent pleaded not guilty and claimed a trial.

The prosecution produced eight witnesses in support of its case against the respondent whereafter the respondent’s statement under section 342, Cr.P.C. was recorded wherein he denied and controverted the allegations leveled against him and professed his innocence. The respondent made his statement on oath under section 340(2), Cr.P.C. before the trial court when he appeared as DW1. Upon conclusion of the trial the learned Judge, Accountability Court, Lahore convicted the respondent for an offence under section 3(1)(d) of the Ehtesab Ordinance, 1996 read with section 35 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 vide judgment dated 30.11.2000 and sentenced the respondent to simple imprisonment for one year and a fine of Rs. 50,00,000/- or in default of payment thereof to undergo simple imprisonment for one year. The benefit under section 382-B, Cr.P.C. was extended to the respondent. The Accountability Court also passed a consequential order under section 15 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 disqualifying the respondent from contesting an election or holding a public office for a specified period. The respondent challenged his conviction and sentence before the Lahore High Court, Lahore through Criminal Appeal No. 1912 of 2000 which was heard and allowed by a learned Division Bench of the said Court vide judgment dated 13.06.2002 and the respondent was acquitted of the charge. The State has assailed the respondent’s acquittal by the Lahore High Court, Lahore through the present appeal by leave of this Court granted on 10.05.2006.

3. In support of this appeal the learned Deputy Prosecutor-General Accountability appearing for the appellant/State has argued that the actus reus of relaxing the relevant rules and approving appointment of 145 persons to different posts in the Oil & Gas Development Corporation had never been denied or disputed by the respondent and the mens rea for the exercise was nothing but obliging some parliamentarians which intention was unconstitutional and illegal besides being criminally culpable and, thus, the Lahore High Court, Lahore was not justified in acquitting the respondent of the charge by holding that the prosecution had failed to prove any criminal intent on the part of the respondent. In support of his submissions the learned Deputy Prosecutor-General Accountability has placed reliance upon the cases of Mushtaq Ahmed Mohal and others v. The Honourable Lahore High Court, Lahore and others (1997 SCMR 1043) and Syed Mubashir Raza Jaffri and others v Employees Old-Age Benefits Institutions (EOBI) through President of Board, Board of Trustees and others (2014 SCMR 949).

As against that the learned counsel for the respondent has argued that the view formed by the Lahore High Court, Lahore in the matter was a view which was reasonable and a disagreement with such view does not provide a valid basis for interfering with a judgment of acquittal. In support of this argument the learned counsel for the respondent has relied upon the judgment passed by this Court in the case of Ghulam Sikandar and another v. Mamaraz Khan and others (PLD 1985 SC 11) wherein different principles for interference in a judgment of acquittal had been laid down in detail. He has also argued that the case in hand was a case of an alleged commission of a criminal offence and, thus, the evidence led by the prosecution had to be assessed on the basis of the actus reus and the mens rea which did not coincide in this case so as to make the offending action of the respondent a criminal offence. In this regard he has submitted that after receiving requests from some parliamentarians the respondent had referred the matter of appointments to the Chairman, Oil & Gas Development Corporation, the respondent had relaxed the relevant rules and had approved the making of appointments when he was advised that he had the requisite jurisdiction to relax the rules and the actual appointments were made by the Chairman, Oil & Gas Development Corporation and not by the respondent. He has also argued that before relaxing the rules and granting approval for making of the appointments the respondent had been informed that there was already in existence a prevailing practice whereby the Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources could grant the requisite approval for appointments after relaxation of the rules as a special case. It has been maintained by the learned counsel for the respondent that following a prevalent practice negated the element of mens rea on the part of the respondent which was crucially important for transforming the respondent’s actus reus into a criminal offence.

The learned counsel for the respondent has gone on to argue that Ijaz Ahmed Khan (PW1) had stated before the trial court that the required appointments were to be made after fulfillment of certain conditions, Mobeen Ehsan (PW3) had deposed about his own authority to recruit and had never stated that the respondent had pressurized him in that regard, Akhtar Hussain (PW4) had stated before the trial court that the recruitments in question were made in accordance with the Rules of the Oil & Gas Development Corporation, Abdul Mateen Ahmed (PW5) had also stated the same thing as was stated by Akhtar Hussain (PW4) and R. A. Hashmi (PW6) had clearly deposed before the trial court that the respondent had not applied any pressure upon anybody in the matter of appointment of the relevant persons nor any dictation was given in that regard by the respondent to the Oil & Gas Development Corporation. It has, thus, been maintained by the learned counsel for the respondent that there was no criminal intent in the matter on the part of the respondent and, therefore, the Lahore High Court, Lahore was quite justified in acquitting him. The learned counsel for the respondent has read out the relevant portions of the impugned judgment passed by the Lahore High Court, Lahore and has submitted that the grounds weighing with the High Court for acquitting the respondent were sound and, therefore, the respondent’s acquittal does not warrant any interference by this Court.

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