How IHC CJ becomes a role model for others

Ansar Abbasi
Thursday, Jun 23, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), under Chief Justice Athar Minallah, is becoming a role model for others in saving public money as it has returned to the public kitty almost 30pc of the total budget allocated to the IHC for the current fiscal year 2021-22.

There is no free tea or refreshment for judges, no honorarium for employees to use the unutilised budget, no unnecessary renovation work, no wastage of money. More importantly, the IHC has approached the Auditor General of Pakistan to do the forensic audit of the taxpayers money spent by the IHC during Justice Minallah's tenure. The forensic audit, it is said, would be done in September this year.

The IHC and all its existing judges have already made an exception in the superior judiciary by not even applying for government plots. The judges of the superior judiciary get government plots as part of the government policy, which is not covered by the presidential order which sets judges terms and conditions.

Justice Minallah has also barred the judicial officers, under his domain, as well as the IHC employees from getting government plots.

According to an informed source, the IHC was allocated a total of Rs1,082 million budget for the current fiscal year ending on June 30, 2022. The IHC, the source said, surrendered Rs311.4 million to the public exchequer on not being used. Some other courts of the superior judiciary paid huge amount of unutilised public money as honorarium to hundreds of their employees. The News has obtained details of such spending about one particular court, which would be shared with the readers in the coming days.

The incumbent IHC judges have to pay from their pocket for the tea and refreshment they are served. During the tenure of some of his (Justice Minallah) predecessors, refreshments, tea, sometime even food and dryfruit for judges were purchased from public money. One of the former CJs of the IHC occasionally used to do lighting of the court building and hold religious festivals on account of public money.

It is also said that the salaries of the IHC employees are less than the employees of other high courts and the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It should be reminded here that the employees of the Supreme Court and high courts are drawing much higher salaries than other government servants. The IHC, however, is not allowing the routine raises as is done in other courts.

It is, however, not yet ascertained what is the nature of protocol and security that the IHC judges enjoy. Government sources generally point out that many judges of the superior courts as well as those representing the district judiciary are a source of huge public money wastage because of the kind of protocol and security they demand for themselves. However, no government or government functionaries speak about this because of the fear of judges.

As against the austerity measures being observed by the incumbent IHC CJ, a 2011 “office order” of the IHC, which was issued under the signature of the then Registrar had conveyed, “The competent authority has been pleased to fix the following privileges/ facilities to be provided at Chief Justice House and at the residence of the Hon’ble judges of this Court from the date of assumption of charge of their offices:

1. One car with driver and maintenance and maximum 500 liters petrol per month-(Place of availability) Residence.

2. An official car with supply of petrol not exceeding 150 liters per month - At place of posting (President’s Order No.3 of 1997).

3. Maintenance of House - Through PWD department.

4. Gunman and Guard - Residence.

5. Two Naib Qasid to Hon’ble Chief Justice and One Naib Qasid to Hon’ble Judges. (From contingency on daily wages basis as semi skilled worker) - Residence.

6. Two Mali/ Gardener to Hon’ble Chief Justice and One Mali/ Gardener to Hon’ble Judges. (From contingency on daily wages basis as semi skilled worker) - Residence.

7. Two sweeper to Hon’ble Chief Justice and one sweeper to Hon’ble Judges. (From contingency on monthly salary of Rs4,000/- as part time worker)- Residence.

8. One new split A/C 1.5 ton- Residence.

9. One new generator along with consumed POL and requisite maintenance- Residence.

10. One new official telephone connection or reimbursement of private telephone already installed - Residence.

11. Reimbursement of mobile cards charges - Upto 4,000/- per month.

12. Medical reimbursement charges including dependent family members.

13. Payment of utility bills and taxes through the PWD department.

14. Reimbursement of lawn and garden maintenance charges (Rs12,000 per annum) and Rs20,000 one time during service for purchase of implements and tools. -Residence.”

The News had reported the above matter a few years back following which all the perks which were beyond the limits of the presidential order were surrendered or withdrawn.