The Lahore High Court on Wednesday set aside the notification for termination of 20 law officers of the office of the advocate general Punjab, issued by the caretaker government on May 5 this year.

The order from Justice Umar Ata Bandial came on a petition filed by the terminated law officers.

“This order would not deprive the right of the newly-appointed law officers,” the chief justice ruled while dictating the order as he observed that the interim government had been appointed to hold free and fair elections.  “There is no rationale for the removal of some of the law officers and retaining some others, although they had been all appointed by the previous government,” observed Justice Bandial, adding that retaining of the law officers without any classification violated the rules.

The chief justice, going over the notification, noted that the language of the document was objectionable since it carried the word ‘remove’.

Upon this, the advocate general for Punjab said the expression ‘removal’ from office did not lead to any stigma upon the petitioners because it was derived from the law manuals.

After removing 20 law officers, the interim dispensation in Punjab province had appointed 19 other law officers.

During the last hearing, Justice Bandial asked the Punjab government to remove the word ‘removal’ from the notification, but the government, instead of removing it, defended it before the court. He observed that the word ‘removal’ put a stigma on the law officers’ career.

After listening to arguments, the chief justice held that the respondent had not defended the notification on merit, but on point of pleasure of the government which, according to him, was not satisfactory.

Arguing on behalf of the petitioners, counsels Maqsoodul Hassan, Muhammad Azhar Siddique and Zakaur Rehman argued that the caretaker government had acted beyond its mandate and jurisdiction by removing and appointing the law officers.

They said the discretion exercised by the law secretary was not only vague, but in violation of Section 24 of the general clauses act and the judgments of the superior courts.

They said the government had deliberately ignored its duty of complying with a Supreme Court judgement in the Tauqir Sadiq case with respect to the appointments in autonomous regulatory bodies. They contended that the whole process was contrary to the ban imposed by the election commission of Pakistan on appointments and transfers, etc.

The counsels argued that in an interim set-up, the power to recruit, transfer and post rested with the election commission. They prayed to the court to declare the notification illegal and unlawful.