Pakistan

Supreme Court Rules That Citizens Can Sue Public Servants Under Article 212

Justice Athar Minallah of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has highlighted a significant aspect of the Constitution, specifically Article 212, which allows citizens to seek compensation from public officials for failing to uphold their constitutional responsibilities.

Justice Minallah emphasized that the Constitution explicitly provides the right to seek redress for wrongful acts committed by government officials or any person in service of Pakistan, including those involved in tax or cess collection.

Justice Minallah’s remarks came in an additional note addressing the failure of state functionaries to conduct elections within the stipulated 90-day period. He pointed out that citizens are entitled to various legal remedies, including damages, when their constitutional rights are infringed upon due to misuse of authority, neglect of public duties, or abuse of power.

This provision in the Constitution is unique, as it directly grants the right to seek public law remedies for wrongful acts by three categories of public authorities. However, this right has been largely overlooked by the courts and seldom invoked by victims of public power abuse. Justice Minallah lamented the lack of initiative since the Constitution’s promulgation to establish special courts for this purpose, as originally intended by the Constitution’s framers.

Despite the absence of these special courts, the right to claim remedies against the wrongful acts of public authorities remains intact. Civil servants, for instance, have sought remedies from other forums, including High Courts, when the Service Tribunal was not established or became non-functional.

Justice Minallah underscored the profound importance of this constitutional right, noting its potential to empower citizens to hold public authorities accountable and prevent the abuse of public power. He stressed that effective enforcement of this right could foster public participation in curbing power abuse and constitutional violations.

The judge also mentioned the possibility of citizens exercising this right against those who have abrogated, subverted, or held the Constitution in abeyance. In such cases, courts have broad discretion to design remedies, including compensatory and exemplary damages, to redress constitutional rights violations and prevent future occurrences.

In the context of Pakistan’s current situation, where citizens are governed by unelected caretakers in violation of the Constitution, Justice Minallah pointed out that public authorities, including the President, Governors, and the Election Commission, have failed in their constitutional duties.

This failure makes them liable for actions against their wrongful acts. He emphasized the courts’ duty to end impunity for constitutional violations and ensure that claims against public authorities are resolved promptly and lawfully.

Justice Minallah concluded by stating that the Election Commission must conduct delayed elections in a fair, free, and transparent manner, allowing citizens to exercise their right to vote and potentially seek remedies for any wrongful acts that have infringed upon their constitutional rights.

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ProPK Staff