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Justice for ZTBL Pensioners

Access to justice is vital pre-requisite for ensuring the Rule of Law which cannot be ensured merely by establishing different types of courts and tribunals allowing the people to submit their disputes therein. It is multidimensional and more substantive in nature. Unfortunately justice system in Pakistan, which should maintain order and deliver justice, is badly riddled with loopholes, cronyism, political influence, and corruption. People especially ZTBL Pensioners are losing hope in the justice system prevailing today in Pakistan.

It is a hard fact that most of the judges in top courts are appointed on political basis or close relations with politicians having constitutional security of their service. Instead of open competition, they are selected on the basis of pick and choose clearly in violation of the spirit of Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan. With very little exception, the top lawyers having all capabilities to deliver real justice, but having no well connections with the politicians, are always ignored. In turn, the higher judiciary has devised different tools to use for accommodating rich, nears and dears, ruling elite and its cronies, and affix rubber stamps on the arbitrary and even illegal actions of the Executive / their handpicked Heads of departments by providing them undue protection. Several instances are there that some God fearing judge provided genuine remedy to employees strictly in accordance with law but operation of that judgment was immediately suspended by some other court even without disclosing any ground. Our courts are hindering the justice instead of delivering it.

An interim injunction / status quo is not a remedy easily available except in our country. Although interim injunction can be granted by the court without notice in case of real emergency or need, yet it is usually allowed by giving the other party a notice. Any order made without notice normally takes effect for very few days until a return hearing. We are witness of denial of justice to the pensioners of ADBP due to unholy alliance of ruling elite, its handpicked Bank management, and the higher courts. It is renowned saying “To delay Justice is Injustice”. ZTBL pensioners are the victim of such injustice for nearly one and half decades. The single judge bench of Islamabad High court comprising of Honorable Mr. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, while concluding W.P.No. 3022 of 2006 and 22 other connected writ petitions, on the basis of constitution and Bank’s statutory pension Regulations certified that enforcement of revision of pension by the Board of Directors without prior approval of the Federal Government and without any amendment in the statutory Pension Regulations was illegal. Constitution has empowered its citizen with fundamental rights, but in reality, the rights are enjoyed by people having ‘might is right’ and justice prevails only for power and manipulation. On Bank’s mostly time-barred intra court appeals, the double bench of the Honorable Islamabad High Court acted swiftly and suspended the operation of the already implemented judgment passed by Mr. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui without disclosing any ground, and the old aged pensioners are suffering from denial of justice.

ZTBL pensioners challenged illegal decrease in pension before the FST ever during 2002 but the pensioners are still waiting for any outcome even after lapse of 13 years. In their struggle for getting justice many of them have left this world without getting minimum comfort of living for want of pension revision in the light of judgment. ZTBL management is fighting against pensioner’s justified demand totally ignoring their valuable services in the Bank – simply denying their already established rights by dragging them to the never ending dilemma of courts. Our nation now no longer believes in the value, efficiency, integrity, and effectiveness of our courts. No good ground had been made out by the Bank to interfere with the order passed by single judge bench of the Honorable Islamabad High Court, but absolutely justified judgment of Mr. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui delivered in favor of the pensioners was suspended.

Delay in administration of justice is mainly caused by a huge backlog which is further increasing due to the policies of the courts itself. The appeals are admitted for hearing and judgments of lowers courts are frequently suspended by the higher courts without citing any solid legal ground, due to which every single appeal filed leads to further increase in backlog. Far better course is that no appeal is admitted and no interim injunction is granted without giving prior notice to the other party. On presence of both the parties the appeal and the interim order may be decided once for all.

Just imagine the instant pension case remained pending before the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan which finally came up for hearing on 22.2.2010. The bench No. 1 headed by Mr. Justice Iftakhar Muhammad Choudhary, in spite of reaching at a precise conclusion regarding illegality of the pension circular issued by the Bank reducing the pension to almost half, declined to deliver a clear cut judgment in favor of ZTBL pensioners and instead, issued a consent order on the promise made by the Bank before the court that it would recalculate the pension of 13 petitioners present before the Apex Court in the light of SRO 1352(1)1981 dated 25.12.1981.

The Bank then never fulfill its promise and tried to slip away from its liability by creating three imaginary classes in the Bank employees for the first time which had never been argued before any court of law. The Bank once again deprived the 10 petitioners out of 13 on the basis of self manufactured classification of Bank employees into three categories. According to the bank, pensioners who retire from the bank service and were uniformly governed by the relevant statutory pension regulations all did not form a class, but pensioners who retire on attaining superannuation age and those working employees who opted SR-2005, and those who retired under Golden Handshake formed distinct and separate classes.

The Bank action was sought to be sustained on the doctrine of classification and the criterion on which the classification is sought to be sustained is the mode of retirement of the bank employee which entitled him to pension. The ZTBL pensioners form a class for purpose of pensionary benefits and there cannot be any mini-classification amongst pensioners.

The Honorable Islamabad High Court passed the interim order without providing any justification. It refrained from entering into the question of right of the respondent employees without any ground in spite of involving no further investigation into questions of facts.  The appellant Bank is fully aware that it cannot succeed in the Intra Court Appeal and, therefore, they have taken a short-cut method to obtain their objective by adopting some ulterior designs. No good ground has been made out by the Bank to interfere with the order passed by single judge bench of the Honorable Islamabad High Court. The interim order was also obtained by the Bank by suppression of facts is absolutely null and void. Though repeated requests to vacate the aforesaid interim order were made by the Respondents (poor ZTBL pensioners) in the intra court appeal, the interim order was neither vacated nor modified by the Honorable Islamabad High Court and still continues to be remaining in force even after lapse of about two years.

I truly believe that a slight change in approach, as I have most respectfully suggested above, while dealing with the administration of justice would go a long way in ensuring greater ‘access to justice’ and upholding the ‘rule of law’ as a result. I would humbly request the Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan to take notice of injustices and pay attention to the delivering speedy justice to the people. A bereaved nation cannot be consoled through statements of intent anymore in any way. Someone has well said “Liberty, equality – bad principles! The only true principle for humanity is justice; and justice to the feeble is protection and kindness”.

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