ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) declared on Tuesday that federal Aviation Secretary Hasan Nasir Jami is unlawfully working as acting director general (DG) of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and directed the government to fill the vacant post of CAA DG till Dec 8.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was conducting a combined hearing of identical petitions seeking appointment of a regular DG of the CAA and another petition filed by a pilot removed from his post over his alleged fake flying licence.

The court noted that the CAA was one of the most important regulatory bodies established under the law. Keeping it non-functional is alarming and may be a reason for the inexcusable mishandling of the issue of alleged fake licences of commercial pilots.

In response to a query, the court has been informed that licences of 50 pilots have so far been cancelled while 20 others are being probed.

The court observed that it appeared that the statement made by the minster for aviation on the floor of the National Assembly was not correct. Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan appeared in court along with Aviation Secretary Jami.

The AG told the court that the federal government had initiated the process of appointing CAA DG in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority Ordinance 1982.

The court observed that the impugned order, dated July 14, 2020, had been purportedly passed by the director general of the CAA. Admittedly, the charge of the office of the DG has been given to the aviation secretary.

Section 7(2) of the ordinance of 1982 describes the composition of the CAA board and the law expressly declares that the secretary of aviation would be the board chairman. Section 9 unambiguously contemplates appointment of director general and it has been provided that the latter shall be the executive head of the authority.

The scheme of the ordinance makes it obvious that the director general would be an independent office and the DG would be one of the members of the board.

On the next date of hearing the attorney general or a law officer authorised by him would justify giving charge of the DG office to the secretary or his appointment as the CAA DG, the court order said.

Justice Minallah further observed: “It, prima facie, appears that the arrangement whereby Secretary, Aviation Division was allowed to officiate or purportedly appointed as the Director General of the Authority was ultra vires the Ordinance of 1982 and thus illegal,” the court order said.

“This arrangement has continued for more than two years and, therefore, the status of the orders passed during this period also have to be justified, which includes the orders impugned in the instant petition,” it added. Further hearing was adjourned till Dec 08.

Earlier, on Nov 3, Justice Minallah had observed that due to incompetence of relevant authorities the much important position of the CAA DG was still vacant.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2020