ISLAMABAD               -        The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday appointed the Accountant General of Pakistan and the Controller of Military Accounts as amici curiae in a petition challenging the outsourcing of financial services by Pakistan Post to a private entity.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petition filed by Ahsan Naveed Farooqi and deferred the hearing till Tuesday (today) after issuing aforementioned directions.

During the hearing, Naseer Ahmed Director General (DG) Pakistan Post appeared along with Syed Muhammad Tayyab, Deputy Attorney General.

The IHC bench asked from the official of Pakistan Post that what services rendered by the Pakistan Post have been outsourced to the private bank. He stated that Pakistan Post disburses pensions of retired soldiers and employees of armed forces in grades 1 to 16, retired employees of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited and Pakistan Post.

Then, the court asked that who pays for the services rendered by the private bank? He initially informed that fee is deducted from the payments made to the pensioners but later stated that he was not sure. He also could not inform the court the total amount paid as consideration to the private bank. He could not satisfy the court that Pakistan Post was legally empowered under a particular law to perform functions which otherwise fall within the exclusive domain of two government institutions i.e. the Accountant General of Pakistan and the Controller of Military Accounts.

He was also not able to point out the relevant law which empowers the Pakistan Post to deduct fee from the payments made to pensioners.

Justice Athar noted in the order, “The questions raised in the instant petition are of paramount public importance. It, prima facie, appears that deduction of fee from payments made to pensioners is in violation of their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights. It also, prima facie, appears to this Court that the payment made to a private bank and outsourcing of services relating to payment of pensions in case of some classes is an unnecessary expense and a burden on the exchequer because it is an intrusion in the mandate and functions assigned to the Accountant General of Pakistan and the Controller General of Military Accounts.”

Therefore, the court directed the Director General, Pakistan Post to nominate a senior official to appear before this Court and explain the aforementioned queries and to satisfy this Court why an injunctive order may not be passed restraining deduction of fee from payments made to the pensioners.

“Keeping in view the importance of the questions raised in the petition in hand, this Court deems it appropriate to appoint the Accountant General of Pakistan and the Controller of Military Accounts as Amici for assistance. M/s Habib Bank Limited is also impleaded as a respondent,” added the IHC bench.

The court continued that the Accountant General of Pakistan and the Controller of Military Accounts are requested to submit a joint report regarding the following questions: How and under what authority of law Pakistan Post is disbursing pensions to some classes of pensioners? ii. Why retired employees of the armed forces in grades 1 to 16 are treated differently from those who are in the higher grades? iii. Why the disbursement of pensions cannot be made by the established institutions of Accountant General of Pakistan and the Controller General of Pakistan as is being done in case of other pensioners? iv. Can deductions in the form of fee be lawfully made by the Pakistan Post from payments made to pensioners and that too for services which exclusively fall within the domain of other institutions of the government? v. In case the answer to (iv) above is in the negative, then whether the pensioners will be entitled and eligible to refund of the amounts deducted as fee and by whom? vi. Can disbursement of pensions be outsourced to a private entity under the law?

The IHC CJ said that the Amici are expected to submit their joint opinion on or before July 14 and the Secretary, Ministry of Communication and the Director General, Pakistan Post are directed to submit their respective comments, inter-alia, satisfying this Court regarding the questions framed above-here.