ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Athar Minallah has revived the process of judicial accountability after a gap of over a decade, enabling the auditors to examine financial affairs of the judiciary.
The first audit conducted by the Auditor General of Pakistan has accused former chief justice of the IHC Anwar Khan Kasi of misusing public funds for personal use.
According to the minutes of a meeting of the Departmental Audit Committee (DAC), comprising officials of the IHC, finance ministry and auditors, a sum of Rs1.89 million was “excess payment of rent of house” where retired justice Kasi resided while he was serving as judge and chief justice of the IHC.
The minutes of the meeting were uploaded on the IHC’s official website on Friday. According to the document, the IHC administration has sent the audit para regarding the above-mentioned financial irregularity to former chief justice Kasi, but he has not responded to it.
CJ Minallah revives judicial accountability after a gap of over a decade
The document states: “The DAC was apprised that audit para has been referred to concerned, the decision is to be taken on receiving response.”
Subsequently, the DAC deferred the proceedings on the audit para till the reply with evidence is received.
Likewise, the auditors also found “irregular use of hired building for Judges Rest House for residential purpose by ex-Chief Justice” involving an amount of Rs8.93m. The DAC was again informed that the audit objection had been referred to the former chief justice and his response was still awaited.
The proceedings on the audit para have also been deferred till a response is received.
Another audit para is about the maintenance of Judges Rest House in Sector G-11/3 of Islamabad. During a meeting of the DAC, it was told that a policy notification had been approved by the Administration Committee of the IHC, comprising senior judges of the court, in respect of the rest house. The rates of rent charges have been approved for the rest house effective from Dec 1, 2019. Occupancy register has now been maintained. Rent has been collected from the occupants and deposited into government treasury.
The DAC has settled the audit para subject to verification of record.
Earlier, in 2013, the then IHC administration withheld the internal audit report after the auditors pointed out that at least three judges were receiving house rent allowance of Rs65,000 per month in addition to having official residences in the federal capital.
According to the report, 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 house rent allowance 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”.
The IHC administration never got the audit of its account conducted by the auditor general office again.
However, after the recent audit, the DAC in its meeting recommended that “keeping in view the financial management and powers of Principal Accounting Officer Regulations 2021, the matter be taken up with the prime minister through Ministry of Law and Justice for approval of conferring the powers of Principal Accounting Officer for the IHC. Who (he) will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to explain the unsettled audit paras”.
The superior courts have stopped presenting their audit reports to the PAC after former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry restrained then SC registrar Dr Faqir Mohammad from appearing before the committee.
During a PAC meeting on April 9, 2010, the then chairman of the committee, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, had said that the Supreme Court must be accountable to the parliamentary committee like all other government ministries and departments.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2021