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Into tussle over turf with judiciary enters a new challenger

Published Jul 12, 2012 10:11pm


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A view of the National Assembly. — Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: Like his party chief, the Public Accounts Committee chairman, Nadeem Afzal Gondal, of the Pakistan People’s Party is in no mood to befriend or court the Supreme Court judges. Mr Gondal has once again sought the opinion of the law ministry about whether rules allow his powerful committee to oversee accounts of the apex court.

For quite some time now, the PAC and the SC have locked horns over the right of the former to call the apex court's registrar, like principal accounting officers of other government departments, for scrutiny of its accounts.

Given the flared relations between the government and judiciary, and more so since the passage of the new contempt of court act, the pro-judiciary camp strongly believes that Mr Gondal is playing to the gallery by taking up arms against the institution.There is some truth to the last as the ongoing session of the National Assembly had lawmakers from the treasury benches speaking against what they described as the SC’s discriminatory attitude toward the government.

Noor Alam Khan, a PPP lawmaker from Peshawar, said pointedly: “When it comes to cases involving the PPP and its allied parties, the SC looks ever-ready to pass judgments.”

Bushra Rehman of the Awami National Party was equally hard-hitting in her comments targeting the superior judiciary: “I am completely against the bill that has been moved in the current session of the assembly asking for a 75 per cent increase in monthly remuneration for the widows of deceased judges.”

At the same time, she vociferously defended the PAC's position: “Judges are already getting hefty salaries, so the bill doesn’t make any sense. As for the current standoff between the PAC and the SC, for the sake of the supremacy of the parliament, it is imperative that the registrar appears before the committee.”

On the other hand, a member of the PAC hailing from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) commented that the issue was badly timed.

“Yes, it’s an old issue, but considering the ongoing PPP versus the judiciary saga, where the two sides have taken extreme positions, people tend to believe the PAC is working at the behest of the governing party,” he said requesting anonymity, and then added, “I personally believe the committee which has so far followed a bipartisan policy shouldn’t have taken it up at this point in time.”

To another question, the PML-N lawmaker replied that the debate on PAC’s role vis-à-vis the SC warranted thorough deliberations, but playing it up in media was not going to leave a good taste in the mouth.

Meanwhile, in response to a letter written by former PAC chairman, Ch Nisar Ali Khan, the apex court has through a detailed answer defended its right of not appearing before the committee for regularisation of its expenditures.

“The remuneration payable to the judges of the Supreme Court — Article 81 (a) — and administrative expenses, including the remuneration payable to officers and servants of the court —Article 81 (b)— are amounts which are charged upon the federal consolidated fund and same are not paid out of the public accounts of the federation,” said the SC in its response to the PAC.

The apex court further explained that since the National Assembly had no oversight role on expenditures charged upon the federal consolidated fund, which were duly covered under Article 82 (1) of the Constitution, the PAC, being part of the parliament, could not call the SC registrar to appear before the committee.

On the other hand, the law ministry has supported the stance of the PAC and called upon the SC registrar to appear before the committee for the scrutiny of its accounts. Former Auditor General of Pakistan, Tanvir Agha, is also a proponent of the extension of the PAC’s oversight role to the SC. His views are upheld by his successor, the sitting AGP, Akhtar Buland Rana. When Dawn spoke to him this Thursday on the eve of the PAC meeting, he said that he supported the apex court's accounts being accountable to the PAC.In the tussle between upholding supremacy of the parliament and the independence of the judiciary, this battle is just another turf war that would be hotly contested.


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Comments (7) Closed

Arshad Patel,Ohio US Jul 13, 2012 05:30pm
So many Amendments in the Constitution in favor of the TOP BRASSES then what is the difference ? If it is either Zia, Musharruf or Zardari ?
Zero Jul 14, 2012 12:14pm
We are Pakistan and not the US .. we have our own mechanics that work the system. And of course, no system is perfect. Had that not been the case, Bill Clinton would have been impeached. I believe the constitution of Pakistan was done right, but has been twisted by various governments to fit their wants. Thanks for your opinion.
Cyrus Howell Jul 13, 2012 11:50am
The problem is with the executive branch, not Congress or the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court should evaluate laws, not make laws. Neither does the executive branch make the laws. Prime ministers and presidents must be impeached for criminal by Congress and not the caprices of a single judge. The president and PM are both entitled to a jury of their peers (which would be the Congress). No the other hand contempt of court laws must be kept in force. One argues a president's right to immunity, but a president must appear before the Senate or Supreme Court (whichever it is) to answer questions or turn over tapes CD's records or have aides appear in impeachment proceedings. Serious charges only can be brought against president by a congressional committee and a vote taken by the Congress. This is all just opinion. Not enough planning went into the Constitution if there are hundreds of articles amending it in just 60 years.
Derawal39 Jul 13, 2012 10:09am
Living in glass houses and throwing stones at others. Oh dear, oh dear!!
Fida Ahmed Advocate Jul 19, 2012 11:42am
The Parliament and the Executive have long lists of 'undone' works while the Honourable Supreme Court has done extraordinary efforts for the sake of supremacy of law. The former better complete their unfinished business first and then bother about the later.
Noor M Jul 19, 2012 05:29am
In Pakistan SC is greatest impediment to smooth running of democracy, the over-zealous CJ needs to be contained. Of course NA is supreme in law-making, SC to ensure laws prevail & act accordingly.Only NA has power to disqualify PM or Pres, not the SC.
Fida Ahmed Advocate Jul 19, 2012 11:31am
The law or Constitution is meant to safeguard the rights of the common man,not the Parliament,PM or President, etc.