The Islamabad High Court on Monday set aside the termination orders of the chairperson and members of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP). A single bench comprising Justice Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the petition of the chairperson and the members of the CCP regarding their removal by the federal government.
The petitioner's counsel, Jahanzeb Sukhera, argued that the removal of the chairperson and the members of the CCP by the federal government was illegal because they had been appointed for a statutory term of three years and that the Competition Act 2010 stipulates that the chairperson and members can only be removed from their office for the reasons listed and procedure prescribed in the aforementioned Act. Sukhera argued that none of the reasons for which a member of the CCP could be removed existed and that the procedure prescribed in law had not been followed. Thus, the removal was illegal.
The federal government on 15-10-2018 had ordered the removal of the chairperson and members of the CCP. This order was made pursuant to a summary moved by the Finance Division, stating that their appointment was not made by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and could, therefore, not be said to have been made by the federal government as defined by the Supreme Court in the case of Mustafa Impex.
It was stated that the appointment was made by the finance minister in consultation with the prime minister and thus it was illegal. Sukhera argued that the federal government had authorized the finance minister and prime minister through decisions dated 02-11-2016 and 07-02-2017 to make appointments to the heads of statutory bodies and this authorization did not amount to a delegation of power but was rather a permission to select the appointees for the federal government who retained the power to appoint.
Sukhera further argued that even if this authorization was termed as a delegation of power, the same was permissible under the Competition Act, as the law allows the federal government to prescribe the mode and manner of appointment of the members of the CCP, thus, allowing it to delegate its power to appoint to any subordinate functionaries.
It is noteworthy that the Finance Division in its summary dated 27-09-2018 had stated that the performance of the chairperson and members of the CCP was satisfactory and that the federal government should regularize their appointments. Sukhera also highlighted this point at the court and that the federal government in its reply maintained the position that the removal of chairperson and the members was not due to their performance but was rather based on the technicality that the minister of finance and prime minister had appointed them instead of the prime minister and cabinet.