Qazi Khalid Ali
Federal Service Tribunal is a Federal Institution deriving its origin from Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 [Art. 212] was established under the Service Tribunal Act, 1973. It performs judicial functions in relation to terms and conditions of Civil Servants. It has been given the status of a court at par with the Hon’ble High Court. Its principal seat is situated at Islamabad and has two permanent Benches at Lahore and Karachi.
It is a matter of common knowledge that prior to the enforcement of Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, the matters relating to the terms and conditions of service in the Service of Pakistan or Government were used to be dealt by the subordinate Courts or the High Courts. In the wake of Administrative Reforms, drastic steps were taken in the year 1973 when Article 212 of the Constitution was inserted in order to establish Administrative Tribunals to exercise exclusive jurisdiction, idea was conceived to separate the disputes relating to the conditions of service of the persons in the Service of Pakistan for adjudication, independently. Thus the Parliament enacted the Civil Servants Act, 1973 and the Service Tribunals Act, 1973 and in the Statement of Objects and Reasons for enacting the Service Tribunals Act, 1973, it was clearly mentioned that “Article 212 of the Constitution provides that the appropriate legislature may by Act establish one or more Administrative Courts or Tribunals to exercise exclusive jurisdiction, amongst other matters, in respect of terms and conditions of persons in the service of Pakistan, including disciplinary matters”, in such view, the Tribunal has its existence in the Constitution itself.
It is thus that the Parliament enacted the Civil Servants Act, 1973 and the Service Tribunals Act, 1973. The later was the result of enabling provisions of Art.212 of the Constitution aimed at to establish Federal Service Tribunal. In the Statement of Objects and Reasons for enacting the Service Tribunals Act, 1973.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court in Muhammad Yameen Qureshi v. Islamic Republic of Pakistan [PLD 1980 SC 22] highlighted the exclusivity of jurisdiction and observed that “whose establishment is permitted by the Constitution itself” and that it has wide powers under Section 5 of the Act which is deemed to be a “Civil Court” for the purposes of deciding appeals having all such powers as are vested in the Court under the Code of Civil Procedure including the power to compel the production of documents. It has also been noted that such a Tribunal is “presided generally by a serving or retired Judge of the High Court able to do full justice” in the matter. In another case Islamic Republic of Pakistan v. Dr. Safdar Mehmood [PLD 1983 SC 100], the Hon'ble Court, conscious of the position prevailing prior to the establishment of the Tribunal, noted that “the law reports are replete with decisions on this question and testify to the extensive use made of the writ jurisdiction of the High Courts.” It was observed that to avoid the interference by the High Courts in the affairs of the service, completely new provisions were enacted in the Constitution of 1973 (Art. 212) which permitted the legislature to establish Administrative Courts or Tribunals with exclusive jurisdiction in the matters relating to the terms and conditions of persons in the service of Pakistan. Thus “The Civil Servants Act, 1973 was enacted on 26.9.1973 to regulate the appointments and provide terms and conditions of persons in the Service of Pakistan. Contemporaneously, the Service Tribunals Act, 1973 to provide for the establishment of Service Tribunals to exercise jurisdiction in respect of matters relating to the terms and conditions of service of civil servants was enacted on 29.9.1973”. . . . . . . . “Thus under the new dispensation the Service Tribunal was made the sole arbiter of all the disputes relevant to the terms and conditions of civil servants; the jurisdiction of ordinary Courts was excluded altogether in these matters and even matters pending before them abated as soon as the Tribunal was established……. The Members of the Tribunal were to be appointed by the President and were expected to be experienced administrators, to be presided over by a Judge or a person qualified to be a Judge of the High Court and the orders passed by it were to be final. . . . . The only limitation to their otherwise complete powers in all such matters was that a right to this Court to grant leave to appeal in cases wherein it was satisfied that a substantial question of law of public importance was involved was allowed by sub-Art.(3) of Art.212 of the Constitution”. This is the importance, extent of powers and jurisdiction of FST highlighted by the Apex Court.
In the judgment of Sheikh Riaz-ul-Haq and another v. Federation of Pakistan and others (PLD 2013 SC 501], the Apex Court highlighted the background of the establishment of Service Tribunal, its powers, jurisdiction and authority in such matters, had held that it is a judicial forum akin to High Courts and Federal Shariat Court which performs judicial functions and exercises judicial powers and enjoys the status of a Court thus required to be separated from the Executive in terms of Art.175 of the Constitution which should act independently, following the principle of Independence of Judiciary, especially since its role is in substitution of the highest constitutional body i.e. High Courts and that the Tribunal being judicial forum must enforce Fundamental Rights of access to justice and should also enjoy financial autonomy as has been given to the Hon’ble High Courts and the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan. The salient aspects highlighted by the Apex Court are that the Federal Service Tribunal has been established under the enabling provisions of Article 212; thus, substitution of High Courts; performs judicial functions and exercises judicial powers as a “Court” with wide powers, amenable to the jurisdiction of Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan under Article 212(3) only when leave to appeal is granted on a substantial question of law.
I assumed this office with an objective to carry forward and take steps for possible improvements in its working and delivery of justice. I assumed the charge of the post on 23rd April, 2019 and launched program of clearance of backlog of old cases and expeditious disposal of cases. I took the Members of the Tribunal and administration along with me through formal and informal meetings. The Bench and Bar, being integral limb of judicial system, therefore, the learned members of the Bar who practice and conduct cases in the Tribunal, were also taken into confidence. Alhamdolillah, at the end of the year 2019, we were able to bring down the pendency to 4166. In the year 2020, 2424 new appeals were instituted and total balance of the year was 6590. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, only 2186 cases were decided. Similarly, 1762 Implementation Petitions were received, among which 885 petitions were disposed off. Moreover, 230 Review Petitions were decided that year. However, due to safety measures taken by the Federal Government and the vacancy of two posts of Members, the progress didn’t go well which resulted in increase of pendency of Appeals to 4404 that year.
The progress of the Tribunal has been significantly deteriorated this year due to vacancy of 10 posts of Members. Single benches are constituted in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi in different segments during the month to manage the pendency of cases at these locations.
The Tribunal has increased its efforts for establishment of Benches at Peshawar, Quetta and Multan. The Prime Minister has advised that videoconferencing facility may be used for hearing at these Benches. Allocation of space has already been made by Law Division for Peshawar Bench at Judicial Complex Peshawar. The Tribunal is in contact with Chief Secretaries Punjab and Quetta for allocation of spaces at the concerned regions. Moreover, the Cabinet has been pleased to approve the allotment of land for construction of FST’s own building for FST Karachi Bench and approval has also been granted by the Federal Government for construction of new building for Camp Office, Karachi. The project for Automation of Federal Service Tribunal has also been approved, and it is expected that we will be able to hear cases through Video-link Connectivity this year. Moreover, a Case flow Management System will also be developed this year which will provide real time information regarding cases of the litigants on day-to-day basis. SMS alerts and notification service will also be available for the lawyers and parties to get notified about fixation of their cases and status of certified copies of judgments on their cellular phones. Launching of website is one such effort which has been carried out to provide ease to the litigants and lawyers to get convenient information about due dates of their appeals through regular cause-lists, roaster details, appeal statistics, laws and regulations, annual reports, and important news regarding Federal Service Tribunal.
At the end, I extend my gratitude to the employees of the Tribunal for their continued support and commitment to the Tribunal.
(Qazi Khalid Ali)
Federal Service Tribunal, Pakistan.