LAHORE: The Punjab caretaker government has approved funds to the tune of Rs361.49 million for interest-free loan to 11 judges of the Lahore High Court for purchase/construction of house.

The LHC judges had desired to avail the facility of interest-free loan equal to 36 basic pays for the purchase/construction of houses. Each judge has a basic pay to the tune of Rs912,862.

The approval for the grant of the loan has been given by the cabinet standing committee for finance, and two of the judges have already received the interest-free loan amounting to Rs32.86m each.

The interest-free loan has been granted to Justice Ahmad Nadeem Arshad, Justice Safdar Saleem Shahid, Justice Rasaal Hasan Syed, Justice Shakil Ahmad, Justice Muhammad Tariq Nadeem, Justice Muhammad Amjad Rafique, Justice Abid Hussain Chattha, Justice Anwar Hussain, Justice Ali Zia Bajwa, Justice Muhammad Raza Qureshi and Justice Raheel Kamran.

The loan amount is being released in one installment and will be recovered by deducting one-fourth (25 per cent) basic pay on a monthly basis. Eventually, the interest-free loan will be recovered in 12 years, while some of the judges will retire in a year to six, nine and 11 years.

Sources in the Punjab caretaker cabinet say there is no precedent that an interest-free loan is given that will be payable in instalments from their pension. A provincial minister told Dawn that the beneficiary judges include a judge, who had granted a stay order on fixation of per kg price of sugar.

It may be mentioned that the Punjab government was paying a whopping subsidy of Rs3.1 billion to the higher and subordinate judiciary under the head of electricity utility allowance. The electricity utility allowance formula for judges explains that if a judge gets a Rs100,000 electricity bill, he will pay half the bill and the remaining amount will be adjusted under the allowance.

In total, the Punjab government is paying Rs4.4bn subsidy that includes Rs1.1bn for the Punjab civil secretariat employees; Rs80m for the Punjab chief minister house/office and Rs33.3m for the Governor House.

It merits mentioning that Punjab food secretary Zaman Wattoo had stated that the non-fixation of sugar price for sale in the market has caused Rs50bn extra cost to the public in Punjab alone. The Lahore High Court had suspended the price notification of sugar at Rs98.82/kg on May 4.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2023

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