ISLAMABAD, Aug 24: An internal audit of Islamabad High Court (IHC)’s accounts has showed that at least three judges were drawing house rent allowance of Rs65,000 per month in addition to having official residences in the federal capital.
According to the report, “Internal audit and inspection on the accounts of Islamabad High Court” 2011-13 prepared by the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue (AGPR), the IHC administration hired three houses as the judges’ rest houses in 2011-12 and allotted them to the judges. At the same time, the IHC administration continued paying the house rent allowance (Rs65,000 per month) to the judges.
Under the High Court Judges (leave, pension and privileges) President’s Order No 3 of 1997 (amended), “A judge who chooses to reside in a house not provided by the government shall be entitled to be paid a monthly allowance of Rs65,000 and his residence shall also be maintained at government expenses.”
The auditor recommended to the IHC administration that “the payment of the house rent allowance in addition to the allotment of the rest houses to the judges be clarified as only one of the two facilities was admissible to them.”
Syed Qalb-i-Hassan, the incumbent vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, who also served as a judge of the IHC in 2009, told Dawn that when he was the judge the then IHC administration had hired a single building in sector F-10 and converted it into the judges’ rest house.
“Three of the then IHC judges lived in separate rooms of the rest house and were also getting monthly house rent which according to my own opinion was illegal.”
He added that after allotment of separate official residences to the judges there was no justification for getting monthly rent from the national exchequer.
And if anyone has drawn any amount in this regard, it must be returned to the government treasury.
It may be mentioned that the IHC was established in 2007 on the directive of then president Pervez Musharraf. By 2009, eight judges, including Mr Hassan, worked in the court till the Supreme Court on July 31, 2009, along with many other orders of the former military ruler, declared the establishment of the IHC unconstitutional and sent all the judges home.
The IHC, however, was re-established under the IHC Act 2010 and after appointment of judges it started functioning in January 2011.
A former legal adviser to the ministry of housing and works on the condition of anonymity said if a judge resides in his own house or makes residential arrangements on his own he is entitled to claim the house rent allowance commensurate with 45 per cent of his basic salary.
“If it is pointed out at any stage that someone is drawing monthly house rent despite having an official residence, the ministry of housing can cancel the allotment of his official residence and the AGPR can also deduct the amount received as house rent from the salary of that particular official.”
Justice (retired) Tariq Mehmood, when contacted, said an audit objection regarding drawing of the allowance must be settled and the amount received as house rent should be returned forthwith.
An official privy to the audit told Dawn that after conducting the internal audit the AGPR had submitted the report to the IHC administration.
The IHC administration, he added, examined the objections and the internal audit report was referred to the Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC) in early August, where the objections would be settled.
According to him, the auditor general office will conduct an external audit of the IHC accounts after which the matter will be referred to the Public Accounts Committee.