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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Organizational justice in police of Pakistan

An organization is a reflection of its internal governance; the more it is just, the more it is likely to deliver better the service for which it has been established. The justice sector in Pakistan comprises police, prosecution, judges, prisons and the directorate of probation and parole.

Protection through law is a cardinal principle of the Constitution of Pakistan. This principle not only protects individual rights but also shapes public policy and governance structures. Thus, for every institution, there must be some organizational law. For example, there is the Army Act, 1952 that constitutes Pakistan Army as an institution.  Likewise, in the justice sector, the provincial police organizations are products of organizational laws like the Police Order, 2002 and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Act, 2017. The Federal Investigation Agency, a federal police organization, is also a product of an organizational law i.e. the Federal Investigation Act, of 1974.

The prosecution, judiciary and prison organizations/institutions also have their own respective laws that deal with their internal governance and service structure. As a corollary to the concept of organizational law, it may be noted that the constitutional architecture in Pakistan links budget-making with law-making requiring that budget/official money be only given to the statutory organizations. In the context of these organizational laws, an important issue that had henceforth not been legally recognized as the concept of organizational justice.

Read more: Decolonization, fraser report and police reforms in Pakistan

Understanding the matter better

The concept of organizational justice, it may be noted, is borrowed from the literature of management that has researched and studied organizations in detail. Professor Jerald Greenberg of the University of Ohio is credited with bringing the concept of organizational justice as a central consideration for organizational studies. He defined organizational justice as employees’ perception of their organization’s behaviours, decisions and actions and how these influence them. The Supreme Court of Pakistan in the latest judgement acknowledged the concept of organizational justice vis-à-vis police when it noted:

“Organizational justice is necessary for the police officers to perform their duties with complete commitment, dedication and fidelity because they must perceive that the institution is fair and just towards them.”

This brief note will outline the facts of the case and will contextualize the background of the case and its relevance to the justice sector. The case is titled Syed Hammad Nabi (Syed Hammad Nabi Case) and came up for hearing before a Division Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ayesha A. Malik. The judgement has been authored by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah who elaborated on the structure of police organizations with conceptual clarity. The facts as narrated in the case were that one Mr Attah Muhammad (along with his batch mates) was appointed directly as an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) on 10th Nov 1993.

Thereafter, he was promoted to the rank of Sub Inspector on 27th August 2003. However, due to a court decision (Qayyum Nawaz Case), he was granted ante-dated seniority from 22nd Dec 1996. The act of ante-dated seniority was annulled and withdrawn as a result of the jurisprudence propounded by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in out-of-turn promotion cases in the police. Mr Attah Muhammad was able to get a decision against the withdrawal of his ante-dated seniority from the Punjab Service Tribunal (PST). The judgement of the PST was assailed by Syed Hammad Nabi (along with his batch mates) who contended that he was appointed directly as a Sub Inspector (SI) on 30th Oct 1997.

Read more: System of police in Pakistan: An introduction

At the time of his induction/appointment, Mr Attah was junior to him. However, later due to the ante dated seniority granted to Mr. Attah, he was shown as a junior to Mr. Attah. The dispute was essentially about the inter-se seniority of the two groups of officers. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, while deciding the case, contextualized the facts of the case with organizational justice and noted that internal governance of police must be fair, transparent and non-discriminatory. In his reasoning, he noted how a leave-refusing order in Qayyum Nawaz Case was treated as a judgement in rem and was applied to the whole structure of police organizations.

Quoting Rule 12.2 of the Police Rules in detail, he noted how the statutory framework regulating the service structure of police was affected by this court case leading to more discretion in the hands of senior police officers fixing the seniority of junior police officers. He revived the principle-based criterion for fixing the seniority of junior police officers and set aside the judgement of the PST. He empowered the police leadership with powers to mete out organizational justice to junior police officers in a fair and just manner but in accordance with a rule-based principle instead of following their whims and wishes.

The judgement must be considered as part of a string of judgements by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in which, it handheld the police to put their internal governance in order. Prior to this case, in earlier cases that are better known as the Out of Turn Promotion Cases, the Supreme Court took suo motu of the law and order situation in Karachi, and in a bid to strengthen the weakening organizational justice within police organization of Sindh, it declared all the out of turn promotions as illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires of the constitution.

Problems that need introspection

Then the same judgement was got implemented in the Punjab Police where over ten thousand police officers had been granted out-of-turn promotions in total disregard to the applicable legal framework. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah founded the basis of the instant case on the jurisprudence and wisdom of the earlier cases decided by the Supreme Court. Theorizing the gist behind the cases, he noted:

“More than any other organization, it is imperative that the police must function as a rule-based organization which is fully autonomous and independent in regulating its internal governance. A strong and smart police force requires organizational justice firmly entrenched in the institution so that its officers are assured that they work for an institution that firmly stands for rules, fairness, transparency and efficiency. This upholds the morale of the police officers, especially junior police officers who are required to undertake dangerous and strenuous assignments on a daily basis and also uplifts the institution making it more vibrant and progressive.”

Read more: Criminology, police corruption and police reforms

As a general rule, an organization is a reflection of its internal governance; the more it is just, the more it is likely to deliver better the service for which it has been established. The justice sector in Pakistan comprises police, prosecution, judges, prisons and the directorate of probation and parole. These components belong to different organizations and each organization is in need of reform that must start with organizational justice. The content of many police reform reports revolves around police welfare and organizational autonomy with the clear objective of establishing rule-based police organizations. It is hoped that the instant judgement will be followed in true letter and spirit as its faithful implementation is likely to contribute to advancing the cause of organizational justice in police organizations in Pakistan.


Kamran Adil is currently serving as Deputy Inspector General of Punjab police. He studied law at Oxford University and writes and lectures on international law. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.