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Citizen portal actions regarding provincial depts illegal: PHC

Citizen portal actions regarding provincial depts illegal: PHC

SWAT: The Mingora Bench of the Peshawar High Court here has ruled that the Prime Minister’s Performance Delivery Unit (PMDU) and Pakistan Citizen Portal (PCP) have no authority to take action in relation to a provincial department on the people’s complaints and such action violates the Constitution, which provides autonomy to the provinces in their own domain.

Accepting a petition filed by five residents, Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim and Justice Wiqar Ahmad Khan declared that there was no doubt that the PMDU and PCP had been operating beyond the limits prescribed for the executive authority of the federation, across the length and breadth of the country and had been directly dealing with provincial government departments in matters, which exclusively fell in the domain of the provincial governments.

“Here they have expressly been transgressing the limits of their lawful authority. The provincial government departments should be looked after, regulated, and made accountable and effective by the provincial government itself,” the bench ruled in its 27-page detailed judgment.

Rules outside interventions in departments will cause harm and no good

It added that if a citizen portal or system for checking maladministration of the provincial departments was required, it could be established at the provincial level.

The petition was filed by Ziaullah and five other residents against whom some unidentified persons had complained to the PCP that they had acquired chemical and biological weapons and harboured terrorists.

The complaint was forwarded to Swat’s district police officer prompting the police and other departments to investigate it. However, the complaint turned out to be false.

Counsel for the petitioners Aurangzeb contended that his clients were government employees, but they were humiliated, harassed and stressed out by the law-enforcement agencies due to that complaint.

He had contended that the PCP and PMDU had been acting in an unconstitutional manner by interfering with the domain of the provincial governments through the issuance of directives to the provincial departments.

The bench had accepted the plea of petitioners and declared the proceedings through the PCP on anonymous complaint illegal and void. It had issued a short order on the petition on Sept 29.

In the detailed verdict, the bench observed that the introduction of PMDU, as well as PCP and the objectives for its establishment and working, had everywhere been clearly providing that it had the purpose of enabling government organisations and departments both federal as well as provincial to respond and attempt to resolve complaints of registered citizens in a timely and appropriate possible manner according to the relevant laws, rules and regulations.

It, however, observed that such a model of administrative, be it for the purpose of redressal of the complaints, couldn’t be said to be complying with the constitutional mechanism wherein the provinces had been given autonomy in their own domain.

“Their objectives may be noble and better service delivery oriented, but we are living in a federation. Not only the authorities of various departments of government have been well-defined and well-prescribed but the respective executive authorities of the Federal government and provincial governments have also been well-defined and prescribed by no less a document than the Constitution itself,” it said.

The bench added that in the zeal of redressing public grievances and complaints against public sector bodies, the constitutional scheme of provincial, division and distribution of powers couldn’t be allowed to be sacrificed.

It declared that the grievances redressal mechanism could only be made effective if the institutions made for the purpose were made accountable, effective and responsive to such complaints by none else than the respective provincial governments, in whose domain such departments or organisations lied.

“Outside interventions in such departments and those, too, in contravention of the constitutional schemes and laws of the land would not produce any good, but would rather cause more harm,” it said.

“The impugned proceedings initiated and conducted on the authority of Pakistan Citizen Portal, which includes the entertaining of the complaint and referring the same to the Swat DPO for taking necessary action, are unconstitutional for being beyond the executive authority of the federation, illegal, without lawful authority and resultantly null and void,” it ruled.

The bench declared that the proceedings initiated by the PCP being within the exclusive domain of the provincial authorities and those conducted by the local police against the petitioners on the direction of the PCP didn’t have any lawful authority.

It, however, rejected the prayer of petitioners for the start of criminal proceedings against the complainants or provision of their information.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2021

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