ISLAMABAD: After his retirement last December, former Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has comfortably settled into a government house next to his old official residence for six months. However, what is disturbing is that the renovation and maintenance work done at his ‘temporary’ abode has cost over Rs7 million.
According to official details of renovation and maintenance at the residence of the former CJ available with Dawn, the amount has been spent on the purchase of new furniture, bathroom fittings, curtains, wooden floor and rugs.
Just the purchase of new furniture cost Rs1.6m and renovation of bathrooms ran up a bill of Rs1.4m.
The ex-chief justice, who retired on Dec 11, left his former official residence and was given house No 12 in the Judicial Enclave, where a judge of the apex court was residing.
According to official details of renovation work, Rs1.6m was spent on the purchase of new furniture, Rs1.4m utilised on renovation of bathrooms, Rs0.6m on bathroom fittings, Rs0.27m on whitewashing, Rs0.75m on purchase of new curtains, Rs0.15m on supply of new rugs, Rs0.6m on construction of a shed, Rs0.35m on laying of wooden floor, Rs0.35m on purchase of floor tiles, Rs0.25m on roof treatment and Rs0.2m on purchase and fixing of marble slabs.
It has been learnt that some of the work is still in progress and the details of these expenses will be known later.
The opposition has already obtained information about what it termed ‘extravagance’ committed in the name of maintenance and brought the matter to the notice of parliament.
An inside source said the former CJ, who gave a number of historical decisions during his five-year term in office, asked for renovation and maintenance work in his present official residence soon after he shifted his family there.
The order was conveyed to the Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD), which is responsible for maintenance work in many government buildings, including the Prime Minister House, the Presidency, Supreme Court building, Ministers’ Enclave and Judicial Enclave.
However, a senior official of the Pak PWD, under whose domain the Judicial Enclave fell, refused to carry out heavy maintenance work in the residence. He said he did not have the funds required to meet the expenses of the extraordinary maintenance work.
Later the case was referred to the Pak PWD headquarters and the department’s top brass gave approval for the work.
The Pak PWD Director General, Attaul Haq Akhtar, said he was not aware of any expenditure in the house of the former CJ. He, however, said it would not be around Rs7m. “Normally we carry out petty maintenance work at government houses but not for that huge [an] amount. How is it possible that Rs7m have been spent on the maintenance of a three-bedroom house?”
The DG said whatever amount had been spent on the residence of the former CJ had not been approved by him. “I have neither seen any such estimates nor approved them,” he claimed.
In reply to a query, Mr Akhtar said the former CJ has been provided a house in the Judicial Enclave for six months, for which he was authorised.
An opposition politician, Senator Farhatullah Babar, said he had sent a question to the Senate Secretariat asking for details of the amount spent on lodging, security and stay of the former CJ in his new house. “We have already invoked parliamentary instruments to find the truth behind reports of extravagance at public expense in massaging the ego of individuals. We will then [raise] the issue in parliament appropriately,” he added.
“One is not surprised given the well-known penchant of the former CJ for protocol, security, pomp and show,” Mr Babar said.
Supreme Court Registrar Dr Faqir Hussain told Dawn he was not aware of the maintenance and renovation work.
The registrar agreed that he would reply to queries on the renovation work if they were e-mailed to him, but was unable to answer them even two weeks after the questions were sent to him.
“I have checked such kind of renovation work at my end but could not find anything. I came to know that all such details would be available with PWD so it is better to contact the PWD people to confirm your report,” the registrar told this reporter.On the other hand, sources said the registrar was fully aware of the work done in the residence of the former CJ because he was coordinating with officials of Pak PWD on the matter.
Information Minister Pervez Rashid, who also holds the portfolio of law, was reluctant to comment on the issue, saying he was not aware of any such renovation and maintenance work.
He, however, said that maybe the condition of the official residence provided to Mr Chaudhry required such a heavy maintenance work. “If such a heavy amount has been spent on that house, even then it would be considered as value addition to an official residence that would be handed over to any other judge after six months’ stay of the former CJ.”