ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court held on Friday that only the executive could find ways and means to bring the ailing Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation (PSMC) or the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) out of their financial straits by taking stock of the situation and examining the causes of their failure.
“Likewise the legislature can legislate to deal with problems besetting the corporations if the existing dispensation in its wisdom is not equal to the occasion,” said a judgement authored by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan.
A two-judge Supreme Court bench which had reserved its ruling on June 24 on a petition moved by the Pakistan Steel Peoples Workers Union (CBA), however, dismissed the same with the observation that it would not like to entertain it.
The judgement is diametrically opposed to the June 23, 2006 verdict when a nine-member Supreme Court bench, headed by then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had annulled the sale of PSM to a three-party consortium by declaring the $362 million transaction with the Russian-Saudi-Pakistani investors null and void.
In the fresh case, Barrister Ali Zafar, who represented the CBA Union, had sought a restraining order from the court directing the government not to terminate the services of or lay off PSM employees or deduct the allowance on the pretext of making the PSM operational.
The petition had also pleaded that the late payment of salaries to employees had caused them grave inconvenience and financial hardship.
It had also deplored that the management of the PSM and the government had failed to deposit the provident fund contributions to the Provident Fund Trust causing great difficulties to serving and former employees of the PSM.
But Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan observed that the judicial analysis, assessment or adjudication of such matters, which was more or less theoretical, could not be a substitute for prudent management.
The PSM alone is not in the lurch, the judgement highlighted, adding that the PIA, which used to be one of the best airlines of the world, was also in the similar state. The judgement highlighted that what to do and how to do (to improve the situation) was the domain of the executive and the legislature.
The verdict admitted that the PSM was a huge enterprise and a hub of the country’s economy and thus the backbone of the republic because no mega or minor project in the country was conceivable without steel mills.
But despite having a winning head start, the enterprise came to a deadlock, the verdict regretted, adding that what drove the mills to such a pass and what could be the way out, in our view, was poor handling and lack of prudent management of the PSM.
“It is because of prudent management that small foundries in the private sector grew into big industrial concerns in our country and Tata, a renowned name in the steel industry, attained an enviable status in the neighbouring country,” the judgement said.
Referring to the question of payment of salaries to PSM employees, the judgement said that the issue could have been addressed and agitated by other fora established by law.
Isolating the question of salary from other disputed questions and addressing it in a petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution would compound and multiply the problem manifold when the PSM had already come to a grinding halt, the verdict explained.
Similarly, failure to settle liabilities towards provident and gratuity funds may have worsened the plight of the employees but such liabilities could only be settled by the appropriate fora.
Since no order terminating the services of the employees, laying them off, deducting their allowances or changing terms and conditions of their service has yet been passed, therefore, the petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution on this score would be premature.
In case there is any such apprehension in the minds of the employees, they could approach the high court concerned and ask for the issuance of a writ of prohibition or any other writ under Article 199 of the Constitution, the judgement suggested.
Inaction or indecision on the part of the government may raise alarm in the minds of the employees of the PSM and add to the anguish of every thinking citizen, but where the remedy could be had from the high court under Article 199 and other fora established in this behalf, we would not like to step in, the judgement said.
Referring to a number of cases cited by the petitioners during the course of hearing, including alleged corruption in Rental Power Plants, the judgement explained that the Supreme Court intervened in such matters as neither any other adequate remedy was available to the aggrieved persons nor any factual controversy was involved therein but it was not the case here.
Courtesy : Dawn News