Senators want ex-CJ Chaudhry to explain additional privileges

Published March 7, 2015
AG Butt said the bullet proof car had been provided to the ex-chief justice on orders of the Islamabad High Court. —Online/File
AG Butt said the bullet proof car had been provided to the ex-chief justice on orders of the Islamabad High Court. —Online/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate began discussing the “additional privileges” extended to former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Wednesday.

The discussion followed Senate chairman Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari’s ruling that the controversial issue is “a matter of public importance” under Rule 60.

Leader of the Opposition Senator Aitzaz Ahsan opened the discussion by calling for summoning the retired chief justice to the Senate panel on privileges to explain his position regarding the bullet-proof Mercedes car the government gave him while he was in service and is still in his use at government expense, allegedly against the rules.

Know more: Govt bearing fuel, maintenance cost of former CJ’s car

At the very outset of the proceedings, Chairman Bokhari expressed displeasure over the absence of Attorney General of Pakistan from the House, who had been summoned to explain his views on the silence of the Supreme Court Registrar over the questions sent to him by the House for replies and the perks and privileges of retired Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Senator Ahsan, who had spearheaded the campaign for the restoration of chief justice Chaudhry after he was deposed by military president Pervez Musharraf, suggested that the matter should be sent to the Senate Privileges Committee.

Aitzaz Ahsan also referred to the public admission by the ex-CJ that he had obtained a loan from the House Building Finance Corporation for his son’s marriage ceremony, a violation of law, and said the under-construction house of the ex-CJ in Lahore was “a building worth-seeing”.

In his hard-hitting speech, the barrister recalled the days when ex-CJ Chaudhry’s son, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, came under spotlight.

He said he visited CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry with some documents relating to what he called Arsalan’s ‘accomplishments’, but thought the CJ protected his son.

Senator Farhatullah Babar sought the chair’s permission to move a resolution in the Senate but was stopped from doing so. Chairman Bokhari advised him to follow the procedure and submit a motion with the Senate secretariat.

Senator Babar informed him that the Registrar Supreme Court never bothered to respond to queries sent by the Senate. Letters written to seek information on judges having dual nationality were not answered, he recalled.

Even request for information about the cases pending with the superior courts was termed interference with the independence of judiciary, said the PPP senator, observing that under the information law, it was the right of citizens to get information.

Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt had meanwhile arrived in the house. He surprised many by observing that Article 19-A of the Constitution enshrining the right to information was not applicable in the case of Supreme Court, but fell short of explaining how and under which law.

AG Butt said all the information sought by the House was available with the Law Ministry and that the Government could not supervise the Supreme Court.

Questions about judicial functions cannot be raised, he said.

According to him the bullet proof car had been provided to the ex-chief justice on orders of the Islamabad High Court. Under Articles 189 and 201 of the Constitution, the state is bound to implement verdicts of the courts, he said, adding that an intra court appeal had been filed challenging the decision along with an application for early hearing but the same were pending since November 2014.

Chairman Senate observed that there were other retired chief justices as well. “Should they also go to the courts to get bulletproof cars? Is not it unfair to give it to one and deny to others?” he asked.

Lawmakers did not get time to question the Attorney General’s views.

But the PPP lawmaker Saeed Ghani, whose question about the armour-plated Mercedes had sparked the controversy, rejected the claim to Dawn that the Supreme Court enjoyed immunity against providing information sought under Article 19-A of the constitution.

He said he would write to the Supreme Court Registrar as a common citizen and seek some vital information missing from the response submitted by the Law Ministry.

He said he had also sought details of plots allotted to ex-chief justices.

Mr Ghani said the Law Ministry had obtained the list of chief justices who had retired since 1985 from the Supreme Court’s website, and only the Supreme Court Registrar can verify it.

The Senate will meet again on Monday at 4 p.m.

Published in Dawn March 7th, 2015

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