KARACHI - The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday dismissed the provincial government’s order removing Inspector General AD Khawaja and ordered that he will continue on his post till his due term.

The two-judge SHC bench, headed by Justice Muneeb Akhtar, had reserved its decision in the case challenging Khawaja’s removal on May 30.

The court, on April 3, had dismissed the provincial government’s decision to remove the Sindh police chief after a group of activists approached the SHC challenging his controversial removal. 

The court in its judgment restored IG Khawaja’s powers of transfers and postings within the police department. The Sindh government had in June withdrawn Khawaja’s powers to decide the transfers and postings of senior police officials in the province.

In its short order, the bench dismissed the notification for removal of Khowaja from the IG post, ruling that the provincial government could not remove an IG without any justification.

The court also made it mandatory for the government to follow the judgment in the Anita Turab case under which an IG could not be removed from his post before three years of his appointment. The judges observed that the complete command of the provincial police remains with the IG and that anyone found taking orders from elsewhere may be proceeded against by the police chief.

Moreover, in its verdict, the court directed the federal government to draft rules regarding the tenure and appointment of the IG.

The court, termed farcical the “rapid turnover in, and bewildering rapidity with which, postings and transfers are made in the police force at all levels” and observes that this is wholly inimical to the stability of, and any meaningful performance by, the police.

The judgment also presses for an end to “outside interference, whether by the Provincial Government or anybody or authority thereof or otherwise including any minister of any rank.”

With regards to the sidelining of the provincial police chief, the court held that any attempt to sideline or marginalise the IG or circumvent him or to otherwise curtail his powers would be contrary to law. “It could, among other things, expose any police officer concerned to appropriate disciplinary or other proceedings, whether by way of misconduct or otherwise,” the court observed, stating additionally that the command structure of the police hierarchy is clear: It flows from, to and through the IG. “There can be no autonomy of command, nor independence of operation without this.”

The court also declared that the Sindh (Repeal of the Police Order, 2002 and Revival of the Police Act, 1861) Act, 2011 is intra vires the Constitution, and that therefore the Police Act, 1861, as revived and restored by the said act is the law in force in the province and not the Police Order, 2002. Concluding its judgment, the court observed that police reforms are an ongoing exercise and may be touched upon later in other petitions.

“However, even if this judgment proves to be but one link in that chain, it is hopefully a step in the right direction.”

The petitioners, which included Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Research head Karamat Ali and singer/activist Shahzad Roy, were represented by Advocate Faisal Siddiqui.

Talking to the media, he said the SHC decision is the first step towards reforming the police in the province.

In his comments after the verdict was announced, Sindh Additional Advocate General Mustafa Mahesar said the government will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court after consultation.