ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) barred the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) from taking action against the SECP Additional Director, Muhammad Arsalan Zafar, in connection with data leak related to the CPEC Authority Chairman, Asim Saleem Bajwa, and his family, till October 12.
A single bench of Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah heard Arsalan Zafar's petition on Saturday.
Arsalan has challenged the show-cause notice issued to him by the SECP.
He has made the SECP chairman, the SECP secretary, and the Inquiry Committee Chairman, Sadia Khan, as respondents.
The bench directed Arsalan Zafar to submit reply of the show cause notice issued to him.
The IHC issued notice to the SECP, and ordered the regulatory body, to file a comprehensive report of the petition, and how many inquiries were conducted by it in the last five years.
At the onset of the hearing, the chief justice questioned, which report was leaked, and why the SECP was taking so much interest in this matter.
The counsel replied that information leak was about release of documents related to shareholders.
"How the information about the shareholders became confidential," the CJ IHC remarked.
He asked whose companies are these?
The SECP lawyer told those were of Asim Bajwa's family.
Justice Minallah then remarked that inquiry was held as the companies belong to Gen (retired) Bajwa's family.
Justice Minallah questioned who ordered for the inquiry.
The SECP counsel informed that the board had ordered for holding inquiry about the data leak.
He said disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against eight employees of the SECP regarding data leak.
The chief justice said those were public documents and should be on the SECP website. He questioned how the information of shareholders became a sensitive issue, adding the SECP with its conduct was making the issue doubtful.
He observed that a non-issue had been turned into an issue.
"These issues are of public interest," the chief justice said, adding accountability was possible only when things were shared with the public.
He said the conduct of the SECP was enough for the maintainability of this petition, and shows that the institution was not independent.
Shahid Anwar Bajwa told that the information shared was about the companies of Lt Gen (retired) Asim Saleem Bajwa's family.
The chief justice remarked that the regulator share the information for the public and accountability.
"I am sure that the prime minister would be aware of it."
The petitioner is serving as Additional Director, Market Supervision and Risk Department in the SECP and he is a qualified Chartered Accountant, having obtained his educational degree from the prestigious Institute of Chartered Accounts in England and Wales.
The petitioner mentioned that while serving his duties on September 9, Head of Department, Human Resource informed him that an inquiry has been initiated against him, and he was required to proceed on leave with immediate effect.
He added that his laptop was taken into possession by HoD, which contained confidential and sensitive information, with respect to ongoing and completed investigations, without complying with any legal formalities such as preparing of a seizure memo etc.
Arsalan further said that on 11-09-2020, the petitioner received a letter dated 10-09-2020 containing the subject "Inquiry Regarding the matter of accessing the database", whereby, through the contents of the said letter, it transpired to him that the Respondent Commission in its 45th Meeting held on 08th and 09th September had constituted an Inquiry Committee.
The petitioner said in due compliance, he appeared before the Inquiry Committee on 16-09-2020, wherein, he fully cooperated with the Inquiry Committee and responded to all questions posed to him.
He has challenged the constitution of the Inquiry Committee by the SECP to initiate necessary formal inquiry on account of "potential data leak of SECP Database".
He prayed to the court to declare the Inquiry Report dated 19-09-2020 submitted by the said Inquiry Committee entirely conjectural in nature and based on mere assumptions and not on facts and to quote the Inquiry Committee "provide 'circumstantial evidence' of his involvement in potential data leak which may have formed the basis of subsequent media leaks" and in utter violation of the due process of law, as null and void, ab initio and set aside the same, in the interests of justice. He also requested the court to declare the impugned show cause notice dated 22-09-2020, based entirely on the report of the Inquiry Committee, as null and void, ab initio and set aside the same, on the well-settled principle, propounded upon time and again by the Supreme Court, as follows, "if foundation of an action was void, then superstructure built thereon had to fall."
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020