Saturday, February 20, 2016

Supreme Court rejects review petitions over PTCL employees’ service terms

by Dawn

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said on Friday that original employees who were transferred to the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) before the privatisation of the telecom giant enjoyed the protection guaranteed to them in their service terms. 

A larger bench of Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali rejected all petitions filed by the PTCL seeking review of its Oct 7, 2011, judgment in which it held that since PTCL employees enjoyed statutory rules, they could seek remedy from high courts through writ petitions.

The short order dismissed the PTCL review petitions, detailed reasons of which will come later, after Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt argued before the five-judge bench that service terms and conditions of the employees of the Telephone and Telegraph (T&T) Department, who were transferred when the telecommunication utility was converted into the Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation Limited in 1991, were protected under the Pakistan Telecommunication (PT) Act of 1991, but employees appointed after the PTCL had become a corporation would be subject to service rules of the corporation.

In the review petition, the PTCL argued that the PT Act of 1991 had declared that the transferred employees of the erstwhile T&T would become employees of the corporation, which was empowered to take action against any such employee.

Referring to the question of guaranteeing service terms and conditions of the transferred employees, the PTCL petition argued that no such rules similar to the Civil Servants Act, 1973, or the Government Servants’ Efficiency and Disciplinary Rules (E&D) had been framed by the government which could apply to the transferred employees.

Thus while enacting the Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation (Reorganisation) Act 1996, when the PTCL was incorporated as a company under the Companies’ Ordinance, 1984, the legislature intended that employment in the company would not be governed by statutory rules.

The legislature thought it fit to burden the government with guaranteeing the terms and conditions as well as pension benefits to the company itself, the review petition said.

The company had also argued that respondent Masood Ahmed Bhatti on whose petition the Supreme Court declared that the terms and conditions of the employees were protected, had accepted the VSS (voluntary separation scheme) on his own choice, but after the fulfilment of codal formalities, he found faults with alleged miscalculation of VSS benefits.

After accepting the VSS scheme, the review petition said the employee was relieved of his duties/service from the company and, therefore, he was not entitled to any indulgence of the court. Then, the petition asked, how could he turn around and seek restoration after accepting the VSS scheme.

The Oct 7, 2011, verdict, authored by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja had held that the PT Act of 1991 had expressly stipulated that all departmental employees on the establishment of the corporation stood transferred to and became employees of the corporation on the same terms and conditions to which they were entitled immediately before such transfer.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2016



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