ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan Tuesday constituted a high powered commission to oversee the utilization of Rs460 billion to be paid by Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd for its Karachi Super Highway Project land. A three-member SC implementation bench, headed by Justice Faisal Arab, announced its reserved verdict regarding the release of funds in pursuant of its order dated 21.3.2019.

The court noted in its judgment that all decisions of the Commission relating to selection of projects, the cost of such projects and all financial matters directly, indirectly or by implication relating to projects to be undertaken shall be subject to approval of the implementation bench of this Court.

It added that Chairman shall either be (i) a retired Judge of the Supreme Court hailing from and permanently residing in the province of Sindh or if not available for any reason then (ii) a named individual, an eminent citizen residing in Sindh; or (iii) the holder for the time being of a public office of or relating to Sindh; or (iv) some combination of (ii) and (iii).

The bench stated that one person shall be nominated by the Sindh Governor and other by the Chief Minister of Sindh subject to confirmation by the Implementation bench, being eminent citizen resident in Sindh, who does not hold any public office and does not have any known political affiliations. Three women; one woman out of three to be recommended by the Commission in its first meeting who is an eminent and accomplished citizen of Sindh and who does not hold a public office and does not have political affiliation. One of three such recommendees shall be nominated by the Implementation bench. Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) and Advocate General (AG) of Sindh will be its non-voting members.

It further said that non-voting members who would attend by invitation are; Sindh Chief Secretary, Finance Secretary, Senior Member, Board of Revenue, Senior most officer assigned to Sindh in the office of the Auditor General of Pakistan, Senior most officer assigned to Sindh in the office of the Accountant General of Pakistan and a nominee of the State Bank Governor, being not below the rank of Deputy Governor.

It added that the Chairman and the voting members shall be for four years from the date of its first meeting but the Court shall retain always the power at any time to direct and order the replacement of any of them prior to expiry of the tenure. The Chairman or voting member may resign at any time subject to the permission of the Implementation bench.

It continued that the Governor and the Chief Minister shall, through the Registrar of the Court, by or before 01.12.2020 make their nominations for the voting members, through the Advocate General, Sindh. If any nomination is not accepted by the Implementation bench, then a fresh nomination shall be sought within such time as may be determined by the Implementation bench.

The apex court said that no action or decision of the Commission shall stand vitiated by reason of any vacancy in relation to a voting member. The Chairman and voting members shall be entitled to be re-appointed for such period(s) as the Implementation bench may determine.

It maintained that a valid quorum for any meeting of the Commission shall be the Chairman and at least other three voting members, of whom one must be the member nominated by the Governor and one the member nominated by the Chief Minister. However, in case two members fail to attend any meeting, the same shall be adjourned for a period not less than seven days.

It stated that all decisions of the Commission shall be by majority of voting members. In case of equality of voting members the Chairman shall have a second/casting vote.

The court verdict said that non-voting members of the Commission must attend such meetings to which the Chairman invites them. The Chairman or the Commission may at any time require at any specific meeting the attendance of any officer in the service of the Federation or the Province or the officer of any institution or public body or of the National Bank of Pakistan, and such officer shall be in attendance accordingly.

It further said that the Commission shall have an office at such location and such physical and other resources and facilities as the Chairman decides on the recommendation of the Commission. It shall, likewise, have officers and subordinate staff assigned to it by the provincial government.

The apex court added that all expenses, other than the cost of the projects, relating to or to be incurred by the Commission or relating to its work shall be met by the Sindh government, provided if there are any differences regarding who is responsible to meet / fulfill such requirements the same shall be resolved by the Implementation bench.

It maintained that the Chairman and nominated members shall be appointed/confirmed (as the case may be) by an appropriate order of the Implementation bench. The Commission shall have its first meeting on or before 25.01.2021.

It continued that the Commission shall propose and suggest projects for public utility including but not limited to health, education, infrastructure etc for the people of the province of Sindh. The Implementation bench shall consider and approve the project(s) from time to time and shall allocate such funds from time to time as per requirements of the project as communicated by the Chairman.

The bench said that once approved by the Implementation bench, the Commission shall then proceed to start the process for award of contracts and other related matters for implementation of the projects. The Commission shall have the power to approve and disburse periodical payments in accordance with the terms of the contract(s).

It also said that all projects undertaken, and being undertaken, by the Commission shall be subject to regular audit in terms of SOPs to be established by the Commission for such purpose. All audit reports shall be placed before the Implementation bench. A yearly audit shall also be conducted by the Auditor General of Pakistan who shall file his report before the Implementation bench.

It mentioned that once a project has been completed, it shall be handed over to the Provincial Government for its continuance and operation. For this purpose, the Provincial Government shall, before the handing over of the project, prepare and place before the Commission an appropriate annualized budget for operation and maintenance and all related and ancillary purposes (which shall also include the allocation and appointment of appropriate staff). If the Commission does not accept the budget (or any part thereof) then the matter shall be resolved by the Implementation bench.