ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday, announcing judgment in distribution of funds by ex-PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, ruled that the constitution does not permit use or allocation of funds to MNAs, MPAs or notables at the sole discretion of prime minister or chief minister.

“If there is any practice of allocation of funds to the MNAs/MPAs/notables at the sole discretion of prime minister/chief minister, the same is illegal and unconstitutional. The government is bound to establish procedure/criteria for governing allocation of such funds for this purpose,” the verdict said.

The 38-page judgment, authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, in suo moto case, noted that former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had doled out billions of rupees in the form of development funds ten days after having completed his tenure in office.

The judgment observed that national assembly, while giving assent to a grant, which is to be utilised by the executive at its discretion, has to follow the procedure provided in Articles 80 to 84 of the constitution as well as the Rules of Procedure, 2007. However, such discretionary grant cannot be spent at the absolute discretion of the Executive and the discretion has to be exercised in a structured manner.

The verdict says that there is also no provision in the constitution that mandates use or allocation of funds to MNAs, MPAs or notables. “Infect, the very use of the term ‘notables’ is abhorrent to the Islamic ethos, (in the light of) both the Holy Quran and the Last Sermon (Khutba) of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PUBH), which envisages that all distinctions on basis of caste, race and colour stand abolished and the only distinction which remains is the one based on piety.”

The court decision also holds that though funds can be provided for development schemes by way of supplementary grant or re-appropriation yet for that purpose, procedure is provided in Articles 80 to 84 of the constitution and the rules or instructions in this regard which have to be followed strictly. It also observed that no bulk grant can be made in the budget without giving detailed estimates under each grant divided into items and that every item has to be specified.

“The amounts as approved in the budget passed by the national assembly have to be utilised for the purpose specified in the budget statement. Any re-appropriation of funds or their utilisation for some other purpose, though within the permissible limits of the budget, are not justified. In such circumstances, the supplementary budget statement has to be place before the parliament following the procedure provided in Articles 80 to 84 of the constitution.”

The court noted that according to order passed by the prime minister for release of the funds under People’s Works Programme-II during financial year 2012-13, it has been left at the discretion of the executing agency to use funds in accordance with their departmental procedure or rules by fulfilling the codal and legal formalities. “Unfortunately, nothing has been done to follow the Pepra Rules.” It further observed that without prior feasibility study/report or following Pepra Rules, amount allocated by the executive agencies has been used, essentially in a non-transparent manner and Pepra rules were not followed in all the schemes.

Meanwhile, the same bench in a case regarding the misappropriation of development funds by the then Balochistan coalition government led by Nawab Aslam Raisani has observed that provincial government being the executive authority must, under the law, undertake an exercise to ensure forensic audit of leftover 75% projects and schemes.

“On receipt of the audit report, the matter should be taken up with the civil and criminal law enforcing agencies to ensure that delinquents, who have allegedly indulged in corruption and corrupt practices, are dealt with strictly in accordance with law so that it may serve as a deterrent for such like minded persons in future as well,” it also observed.

The court also noted that petitioner’s political party i.e. Pakhtunkhawa Mili Awami Party is one of the collation partners of the now provincial government of Balochistan. “Therefore, we feel that it has become all the more necessary for the petitioners and their political parties to cooperate with other components of the coalition government to check each and every scheme in the light of relevant rules.”

The court also held that it is incumbent upon the executive or government to examine/evaluate leftover schemes i.e. 75% of the total, and if it is found that schemes or projects meant for community development have instead provided a golden opportunity to the respondent officials/officers/representatives to misappropriate the public money, the government must proceed against them in accordance with law.