SC takes govt to task over LPP privatisation
21 August, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday took strong exception to the government's move of privatising coal-fired Lakhra Power Plant (LPP).
Hearing appeals by LPP Labour Union and M/s Habibullah Energy, a three-member bench of the court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, also admonished the water and power secretary for his "incompetence" as well as for concealing the facts of privatisation from WAPDA's counsel and additional attorney general.
The power plant has an installed capacity of 150MW and it was leased to M/S Associated Power Generation Company Limited in 2006 for the tenure of 20 years. The matter is currently sub judice with the SC.
The court also directed the secretary to give his statement today (Wednesday).
Hassan Aurangzeb, the counsel for Habibullah Energy, produced a copy of the Prime Minister's Office, which was forwarded by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for approval of privatisation of Lakhra Power Plant, Muzaffargarh Power Company, Islamabad Electric Power Company (IESCO) and Faisalabad Electric Power Company (FESCO).
The chief justice said that the court would not allow anyone to sell the national assets. The bench held that the previous "martial law government" did not observe transparency while awarding lease contract of the Lakhra Power Plant.
"Why has the current government decided to privatise LPP despite the fact that the matter is sub judice?" the court observed.
Hassan Aurangzeb argued that the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) had set aside all the rules and regulations while awarding 20-year lease of the Lakhra Power Plant to Associated Group, which did not qualify for the lease agreement.
He further stated that the then president and prime minister awarded lease to the Associated Group and the matter was not taken into the Counsel of Common Interests (CCI) for approval.
He said that the approval had been granted for privatisation of the aforementioned companies and now the matter had been sent to the prime minister for his final approval.
Upon this, the bench questioned the additional attorney general (AAG) whether the news of privatisation was right or wrong.
AAG Shah Khawar and counsel for WAPDA Shahid Hamid expressed inability to make any statement on the issue. The bench then summoned Water and Power Secretary Saifullah Chatta to make a statement in that regard. Saifullah Chatta appeared before the court and validated the documents submitted by Hassan Aurangzeb. He, however, denied any information about Lakhra Power Plant, saying that he did not have complete details about it. The chief justice remarked that a secretary was a spokesman of the government and if he did not know about the issue then it is tantamount to a criminal act.
He added, "How can it be possible that the water and power secretary, who has obtained approval for summary, does not know about the hearing of the court. It is not ordinary thing." The CJP stated that the judiciary did a lot to safeguard bureaucracy but on the contrary bureaucracy was not following rules and regulations.
Shah Khawar apprised the court that a day before hearing of the instant case he had contacted the water and power secretary for soliciting fresh instructions However, he added, the secretary did not inform him about privatisation.
Shah Khawar told the court that he has fulfilled his legal obligation, adding that he even did not sleep and waited for the call of secretary.
"I felt my responsibility as principal law officer of the court and contacted the secretary," he said.
During the hearing, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) Chairman Khawaja Naeem also appeared before the court and presented details regarding calculation of the price tariff for bids, offered by the respondents in the instant case.
Later, the court sought a written reply from the WAPDA chairman on the issue of privatisation of Lakhra Power Plant and adjourned the hearing until today (Wednesday).