New rules may strip LHC staff of rights

LAHORE – Lahore High Court employees will not have the right to protest, demonstrate, strike or association and even interaction with the media once the new rules are approved.

According to the draft under consideration, employees facing inquiries may have to face fresh inquiries after promulgation of the new rules, a copy of which is available with The Nation. In case of disciplinary proceedings, the employee concerned will not have the right to be represented by a lawyer. Instead, he will have to appear in person to present his case.

The rules in practice were framed in 1973. A comparison of the new draft with the current rules shows there are many changes, some of them very positive.

Rule 17 (v) of the proposed draft says, “The employee may present his case with the assistance of any other employee approved by the disciplinary authority but may not engage a legal practitioner for the purpose.”

According to the proposed rules, the accused cannot remain absent from inquiry on medical grounds unless medical leave, applied for by him, is sanctioned by the disciplinary authority; otherwise, they would be considered hampering or attempting to hamper the progress of inquiry.

However, the disciplinary authority may sanction medical leave up to seven days without medical certificate. The inquiry committee or inquiry officer, as the case may be, shall complete the inquiry within sixty days commencing from the last date of submission of the written defence by the accused or within such further period as may be allowed by the authority. If inquiry committee fails to conduct inquiry within the given time it shall inform the competent authority as to why it could not complete the inquiry under the proposed rules.  Defining conduct of employees, the proposed rules say no employee shall, except with previous permission of the registrar, own wholly or in part, or conduct, or participate in editing or managing any newspaper or other periodical publication. Likewise, no employee shall, except with the previous permission of the registrar or except in bona fide discharge of his duties including publication of a book himself or through publisher or contribute an article to a book or a compilation of articles, participate in electronic/print media or contribute an article or write a letter to a newspaper or periodical either in his own name or anonymously or in the name of any other person.

According to Rule 31 of the proposed draft, no employee shall communicate directly or indirectly with any other employee or a government servant or any private person or the press, any document or information which has come into his possession in the course of his official duties or has been prepared or collected by him in the course of those duties.

According to the present rules, Rule 26 of the Lahore High Court Establishment Rules, 1973, empowers the chief justice to appoint or promote any person who has neither passed nor qualified an examination conducted by the Public Service Commission or under these rules or to deal with the case of any person in such manner as may appear to him to be just and equitable.

On the other side, Rule 45 of the proposed rules says, “In case of any administration urgency, duly placed before Chief Justice in writing by the office, the Chief Justice or the Registrar, as the case may be, shall have the power to appoint any person considered suitable by him against any post on contract basis for a period of one year on such terms and conditions of service as may be considered appropriate.”

However, the new rules have fixed 5 per cent quota for women in jobs as per policy. If sufficient number of female candidates is not available, the vacancies would be filled on merit as prescribed in the rules.

Talking to The Nation, Lahore High Court Registrar Syed Khursheed Anwar Rizvi said, “Rules are not final yet as lengthy process is involved in legislation.” When asked that last year a draft was prepared by the LHC legislation department titled “The Lahore High Court Establishment Appointment and Conditions of Service Rules, 2016”, he said “there is no final draft on rules yet”.

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