A screenshot of the Supreme Court of Pakistan website.

ISLAMABAD: The publicity of a privately set up trust on the Supreme Court of Pakistan website has sparked a new debate among judicial and legal circles.

The ‘Begum Qurrat-Ul-Ain Ramday Welfare Trust’, which is being publicised on the apex court’s website, was formed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Khalil Urrehman Ramdey’s wife. The trust has Chief Justice Iftikhar Ahmed Chaudhry as its chairman while the Supreme Court Registrar Fakir Hussain is a member of the trust.

The presence of the trust’s documents on the website has raised questions among legal circles of whether a private trust should be publicised on the apex court’s website or not.

Some lawyers are also criticising the chief justice and the SC registrar for accepting the trust’s chairmanship and membership.

Documents relating to the trust’s formation have also been made available on the SC website. According to the documents, the trust was created for the "welfare of the low-paid, serving, retired or former employees of the Supreme Court...especially to provide financial support for education and marriages etc. of the daughters of such employees."

Although the trust’s said objectives are to provide financial assistance to for the SC’s low-tier employees, critics are of the view that the private trust cannot be publicised on the SC website.

The trust’s rules, mentioned in the uploaded document, also include a clause allowing Justice Retd. Ramday to nominate a family member as his successor as member of the board of trustees, or to act in his non-availability.

Expressing his reservations on the issue, Former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Justice Tariq Mehmood termed it a conflict of interest. Mehmood said it was possible for any lawyer to submit a substantial amount in the trust’s accounts to exert influence over the court.

Some lawyers are of the opinion that it is also inappropriate to attach the name of a judge’s wife to the trust.

Justice Ramday, when taking oath in Feb 2011 as ad-hoc judge for the SC, announced that he would not take any salary for his work and work voluntarily. According to reports, the trust has been formed from the same money which Justice Ramday had declined to take as remuneration.

Documents relating to the trust can be found on the following links:

http://www.supremecourt.gov.pk/web/page.asp?id=1139

http://www.supremecourt.gov.pk/web/user_files/File/BegumQurrat-ul-AinRamdayWelfareTrust.pdf

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