Our superior court judges are in the habit of criticising the politicians and bureaucrats for indulging in corruption. This is commendable and appreciated by the masses.
PM Yusuf Raza Gilani was disqualified for the sole reason that he refused to write to the Swiss authorities relating to Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari accounts in Switzerland.
But who on earth is going to control Judges’ corruption? The whole nation knows what happened to Chief Justice Ifthikar Chaudhry and his son after it was established beyond doubt that Arsalan Chaudhry had accepted money in crores from Bahria Town’s Malik Riaz.
Now the Islamabad High Court (IHC) administration seems reluctant to allow the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to conduct its external audit after the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue (AGPR) raised a number of objections during the internal audit of the court in August 2013 undertaken by Accountant General Pakistan Revenues Accounts Officer Nasimul Ghani.
According to the report, three IHC judges received house rent despite having official accommodation. Under Para 21(2), Part IV of the High Court Judges (Leave, Pension & Privileges) Order 1997, a Judge who chooses to reside in house not provided by Government is entitled to be paid a monthly allowance of Rs 65,000 and his residence is to be maintained at Government’s expense.
“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 court administration continued paying the house rent allowance (Rs65,000 per month) to the judges.”
The judges continue staying in the hired houses and also receiving the rental despite the Audit Report. They may return the rental if ordered to do so by some higher authority if it ever does so; but will this be enough and wont it amount to corruption and merit disciplinary action like dismissal.
However, the IHC administration did not allow them because of the summer vacations in the court. After the summer vacations, when the auditors again approached the IHC administration in September, they were again not permitted to examine the record.
In October, when the AGP office again approached the IHC administration, they were advised to wait till further orders as the administration was busy in the project of the Islamabad model jail and other activities.
The Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue Tahir Mehmood said the external audit would be conducted by the AGP office in due time. He said the auditors conducted the internal audit of the IHC without any malice and it was done by the order of the incumbent IHC Chief Justice Mohammad Anwar Khan Kasi. During the external audit, the auditors would examine those objections which had been raised in the internal audit, he added.
The IHC additional registrar (establishment) Salamat Ali said he cannot comment on the matter.
Additional registrar, Shahzada Aslam, said the IHC administration would ask the AGP office for an external audit but he did not give any date as to when the external auditors would be allowed to examine the record.
How can citizens of Pakistan ever think of ending corruption, particularly through the intervention of the judiciary, when the judges themselves are indulging in corruption?
What additional steps can one take to ensure judicial independence in a State where the core principles of the rule of law are either amiss or non-existent?