ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to all the lawyers, including two serving Islamabad High Court judges, who drew hefty amounts from the Employees Old Age Benefit (EOBI) in terms of legal fee without authorisation from the Ministry of Law and Justice Division. 

According to the documents, lawyer Babar Sattar is top on the list who drew more than Rs1.16 million to plead different cases of the EOBI without any authorisation from the ministry concerned and his hiring was approved by ex-chairman EOBI Zafar Iqbal Gondal. 

Likewise, Justice Athar Minallah drew Rs0.85 million as fee on July 31, 2012 when he used to practice and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani as then lawyer bagged Rs0.7 million.

Similarly, Fakhar Zaman Tarar, Ahmed Shehzad Farooq, Sarfraz Ali Metlo, Syed Ahmed Ali Shah, Gohar Ali Khan also appeared in several cases and were paid handsomely.

In 79 cases out of 80, lawyers were appointed irregularly and without due procedure, the document further revealed.

Earlier, the top court had directed the EOBI to submit a report within 15 days on the allegation levelled against the EOBI for payment of Rs50 million legal fee paid to various advocates to defend ex-chairman EOBI Gondal.

A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar resumed the hearing of a suo motu case pertaining to the hiring of private counsels by the EOBI.

Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Sohail Mahmood informed the bench that Rs50 million was spent on lawyer fees, adding two among these lawyers had been elevated to as IHC judges.

The bench however observed that both should also come to explain their position over the payment in the EOBI scandal.

DAG Mahmood further informed the bench that the EOBI engaged Advocate Khawaja Haris on Rs6 million, Advocate Rahseed A. Rizvi on Rs2 million and Advocate Saiful Malook on Rs1 million.

The law officer, however, explained that these three advocates were engaged after approval from the Ministry of Law and Justice Division.

DAG Mehmood complying with the top court’s orders also submitted a report mentioning inquiry of FIA regarding payments to lawyers and list of the lawyers.

According to the report, out of 80 cases, permission from the Ministry of Law was obtained in only one case in which Advocate namely Aitzaz Ahsan was hired on Rs2.5 million and in two other cases wherein Advocate Ahsan with another lawyer was hired on Rs0.7 million. In 79 cases permission from the Ministry of Law was not obtained to hire the advocates.

“In all the cases where payment exceeded Rs0.1 million, it was mandatory requirement for ex-Chairman EOBI namely Zafar Iqbal Gondal to get the approval from the federal government before hiring the advocates and making huge payments,” the report stated.

“It would not be extraneous to mention here that almost 80 per cent of the cases from the list related to the registration and contribution of establishments, where in such nature of cases, the institution is currently paying to advocates from Rs20,000 to Rs80,000 and a few years back payment in such nature of cases was far high during the tenure of ex-chairman Gondal and that too paid without the concurrence of the Ministry of Law and Justice as prescribed,” the report added.

The report stated that the matter of payment of amount to advocates was referred to FIA and its Karachi Circle investigated the matter in detail and filed its findings after scrutiny of record.

According to finding, the record reveals that payments mentioned above have been made to different advocates through cross cheques drawn at the National Bank of Pakistan.

From the mere perusal of the record, it is crystal clear that the petitions were filed against the EOBI and not against the ex-chairman in a personal capacity, the FIA however stated in the finding.

The compliance report of EOBI mentioning findings of FIA observed that ex-chairman Gondal committed management irregularities.

On the other hand in some cases the approval was also taken from concerned Ministry for engaging the advocates, it stated.

“Besides this, nothing comes on record that the alleged has gained any monetary benefit from these payments made to the lawyers. In view of payments made to the lawyers they have also provided the services by defending the litigation pending against the institution before the courts of law. Under these circumstances, the matter does not fall within the definition of criminality but the alleged has committed irregularities by engaging the advocates for the purpose without taking permission from Ministry of Law”, it added.

“The non-observance of set criteria for appointment of advocates which specifically binds that any payment to advocates exceeding Rs1 million may only be made with the concurrence of the Ministry of Law and Justice Division and its non-observance have resulted in misappropriation of fund property”, it added.

The report stated that ex-chairman Gondal made several fresh appointments, regularised and absorbed the employees who were on either contract, deputation or daily wages which were challenged before the top court and the management of EOBI had engaged several lawyers on exorbitant professional fees.

The report lamented that the appointments challenged were however declared illegal. The matter will be taken up for hearing in the second week of June.