• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

SC judges’ salaries exceed president’s, PM’s

A policeman walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan. — AFP/File
A policeman walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The salaries of supreme court judges are more than those of the president, the prime minister, ministers, federal secretaries and parliamentarians, according to the data submitted to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday.

The chief justice of Pakistan ranks first in receiving the salary, supreme court judges second, the president third while the prime minister is getting salary even less than ministers and federal secretaries.

At a PAC meeting, Chairman Noor Khan told the members that the president’s salary was Rs 896,550, the prime minister’s Rs 201,574, the CJP’s Rs 1,527,399, supreme court judges’ Rs 1,470,711 and federal ministers’ Rs 338,125. The salary of a parliamentarian is Rs 188,000 while a grade-22 officer gets Rs 591,475 a month. The PAC sought details of perks and privileges received by the president, the prime minister and the chief justice of Pakistan and other supreme court judges.

As the Supreme Court of Pakistan registrar did not appear before the PAC for the audit of over 10-year expenditures of the apex court on Tuesday, the committee re-summoned him at the next Tuesday meeting and warned of issuing his warrants if he did not appear. The committee members expressed annoyance over the absence of the registrar. “If the principal accounting officer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan does not appear before the PAC, why will the rest of institutions be accountable,” Noor remarked.

Attorney General Mansoor Awan said SC expenditures could be audited and the Public Accounts Committee might review audit reports.

Noor said the registrar had written a letter that the matter of audit of SC accounts was under hearing and did not come under the purview of the PAC and that he was not legally bound to appear before the committee. The PAC chairman said 95 SC audit paras had been reported so far, out of which 12 had been settled. “The SC registrar should appear before the committee for examining the remaining audit paras,” he said.

Audit officials said there had been audit objections to Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand Dam Fund, on which the State Bank of Pakistan sought an answer as a private account was opened along with the government account in which the money was kept. The chairman said that along with other institutions, the National Assembly and the Election Commission of Pakistan were accountable to this committee for all their accounts, so what was the reason why the Supreme Court of Pakistan should not be held accountable.

The accountant general of Pakistan brought details of mandatory expenses of the apex court from 2010-11 to 2020-21 on the agenda of the PAC. Noor said the committee would not do anything against the Constitution. The principal accounting officer of the SC was summoned as there were 83 audit objections raised, out of which only 12 were settled.

Hussain Tariq said there was no voting on mandatory expenses, but there was a discussion on the budget. The auditor general said they audited the accounts of all institutions. Noor said that Auditor General Office audited SC expenditures from 2015 to 2021. Tahir said under Article 171 and 172 of the Constitution, every organization taking money from the government was liable to audit and accountable to the PAC.

Noor said they had also written to the NA speaker to consult senior lawyers including Irfan Qadir, Yasin Azad and Shabar Rizvi. The committee said details of dam funds given to the supreme court from 2010 to 2023 should be provided. Noor said former CJP Saqib Nisar himself had written at the time of the fund establishment that there would be an audit of the fund, but now details were not being given.

On the issue of May 9 incidents, Noor questioned what action could be taken against retired government employees involved in arson. “Can the pension and benefits of such persons be withheld,” he asked. He said the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Division and provincial chief secretaries provide details of retired servants involved in riots. “We stand by our institution,” he remarked and added that he would request the Ministry of Defence to stop pensions of the retired employees involved. He asked the Interior Ministry to take action against Afghans involved in riots and make arrangements to deport them. He said the character certificates of youths involved in arson should be withheld.

Meanwhile, the PAC was told that its jurisdiction did not extend to scrutinising the financial affairs of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, hence the SC registrar was not legally obliged to appear before it.

Khuram Shehzad, assistant registrar (Admin), on behalf of the SC registrar, intimated to the PAC that the collection and utilization of funds for the Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand Dams was the subject matter of constitutional petition No 57 of 2016, presently pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The PAC was informed that the Constitution erected a firewall between the judiciary and other organs of the state (Articles 68, 69 and 175) to ensure independence of the respective organs of the state. The remuneration and administrative expenses of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, as charged upon the Federal Consolidated Fund, are separate from the demands for grants submitted to the National Assembly.

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