ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its judgement in the case of doling out of over Rs 47 billion discretionary development funds by the former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf with clear intentions to lay down principles for future utilisation of development funds by the legislators.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, however, allowed the executing agencies to pay the money to all those contractors who undertook different schemes through a transparent manner and after submitting due feasibility reports.

“As far as the case regarding disbursement of development funds by the ex-PM is concerned, the judgment is reserved to be announced later,” noted the bench in the written order.

With regards to the schemes initiated out of the funds allocated to the PWP-II, the executing agencies were directed to undertake an exercise and examine across the board all the schemes so as to ascertain as to whether or not the PEPRA rules have been followed strictly. They also see whether the development works were assigned to the contractors in a transparent manner keeping in view the recognised standards for award of execution of such works; and whether the said schemes were based on feasible reports.

The court said: “If such schemes are found to be in accordance with the conditions and observations, the payments to the contractors may be released to the extent of the work already completed.”

As far as the leftover work is concerned, it should be examined as to whether the same is in the public interest and is feasible to continue execution of the said schemes. If such schemes are found not to be in the public interest or feasible, the same shall be abandoned subject to the approval of the competent authority i.e. on whose behalf the schemes were initiated; and the funds so made available shall be deposited with the public exchequer.

“The competent authority after examining the development schemes will decide to proceed against the responsible both in civil and criminal matters,” the bench further ordered.

Appearing on behalf of seven contractors undertaking 12 different development schemes in Gujar Khan, Justice (Retd) Tariq Mehmood argued that his clients obtained the contractors after participating in the pre-qualification bids and following transparent process of advertisement, bidding and approval of feasibility reports.

Justice (Retd) Tariq argued that the contractors had completed 52 per cent of the work, as they had nothing to do with how and from where the funds were allocated to them.

The bench did not give serious consideration to the response of different ex-members of parliament and notables that included Ghias Ahmed Maila, Anwar Ali Cheema, Fozia Behram, Maula Bakhash Chandio and Mushaid Hussain Syed as how they received the development funds and where they utilised the public money. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry observed he had noted the arguments of the respondents and would make it part of the detailed judgement.

Earlier during the course of hearing Senior Advocate Wasim Sajjad representing ex-PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf apparently could not convince the court that the prime minister under certain provisions of the constitution withdrew the funds and allocated to the notables and MPs.

Wasim Sajjad towards the end of his arguments contended that it had been a practice since long to allocate development funds to elected representatives and notables after they identify different development schemes for the welfare of the general public.

Attorney General of Pakistan Muneer A Malik and Advocate Khawaja Haris Ahmed appearing as amicus curiae had assisted the court, saying there had been no constitutional provision allowing the PM to spend development funds other than approved by the parliament in the annual budget.

About re-appropriation of funds from other head to the PM’s discretionary funds Advocate Khawaj said there was not provision of the constitution allowing the government to withdraw money from other development works approved in PSDP through executive orders.

It may here be mentioned that the PM was authorised to spend Rs22 billion on his own but he got diverted extra funds from projects such as Lavari Tunnel, Bhasha Dam, HEC scholarships etc and spent as much as Rs47 billion for development.