ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared the appointment of Air Marshal (r) Khalid Chaudhry as director general (DG), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), illegal, void ab initio and without any legal authority.
The government was directed to appoint the new DG CAA by following relevant laws and principles of transparency. The CAA sources told The Nation that Air Vice Marshal Khawar Hussain has been given additional charge of CAA DG.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, after hearing the arguments of all the parties regarding delay in the construction of New Benazir Bhutto International Airport (NBBIA) and the appointment of Air Marshal (r) Khalid Chaudhry as CAA DG, announced the short order; the reasons will be spelt out later.
“It involves illegality, corruption and corrupt practices and the delay is due to the illegal deeds, omission and commission of consultant Louis Berger and all the other persons responsible for preparing the design and awarding contract to contractors,” the order said.
The federal government was ordered to take all the necessary steps to ensure the completion of the project as early as possible. The court noted that the federal government had already made a reference for inquiries/investigations and for fixing the criminal liabilities on persons/contractors involved in the delay. It, therefore, directed the Federal Investigative Agency DG to supervise the investigations personally and complete the probe expeditiously.
Advocate Fasihuddin Khan Vardag, a petitioner, has challenged the appointment of Air Marshal (r) Khalid Chaudhry as the CAA DG, claiming the delay had raised the cost of the project from Rs 35 billion to Rs 73 billion. According to him, Khalid Ch was appointed the CAA DG through an executive arrangement made by the then defence minister without observing legal formalities.
The court order noted: “Khalid Chaudhry’s appointment as the CAA DG was made in a non-transparent manner and also without strictly following the law, so it is declared illegal, void ab initio and without any legal consequences.”
The order held Al-Tariq (Pvt) Ltd prima facie responsible for the delay that raised the cost of the NBBIA project from Rs 37 billion to Rs 73 billion. The court further said there seemed no possibility of its completion in 2014 or 2015, so the case required a thorough probe on the basis of tentative investigation report of Shahid Niaz, audit report of audit general of Pakistan and the stand taken by CAA Site Project Director Muhammad Musharraf.
The NBBIA project was to be completed with Rs 35 billion by December 2011.
Due to the delay, its cost has exceeded Rs 73 billion and it may further escalate to Rs 90 billion.
The Shahid Niaz report has pointed out the reasons for increase in the cost of the project, identifying the persons responsible for the state of the affairs and suggesting ways and means to bring the project on track for its expeditious completion.
The court ordered the federal government to take all the necessary steps to ensure the completion of the project as early as possible. The court observed that the auditor general of Pakistan, in its report, had maintained that Rs 155.64 million was paid to Joint Venture of Lagan Company, Techno Associate and Habib Construction in excess to the required payment. The court directed that the excess amount be deposited with the SC registrar till the committee constituted by the government cleared the matter.
The court told the contractors and the consultants that they could take their passports back from the SC registrar office after giving undertakings that they would cooperate with the investigative agency without any hesitation whenever required. The court asked the FIA that if the contractors or the consultants did not cooperate with them, they could proceed against them in accordance with the law.
Earlier, the Civil Aviation Division secretary, appearing before the bench, said the NBBIA project from its very inception had not been planned properly.
The selection of the project site was faulty and to date there was no water for the project. Initially, it was planned that water would be supplied from the nearby Shahpur Dam is without enough water and is located at a distance of 21 kilometers. The PC-1 of the project was approved at all levels without a design and other essential components, he added.
The court, however, rejecting his statement, said they were aware of these facts.