IHC seeks AGP reply on SC registrar’s plea

Petition filed against PIC order to make public SC staff details


Our Correspondent December 03, 2021
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday sought legal assistance from Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan over the maintainability of the Supreme Court registrar’s petition against the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) order to make public details of the apex court’s staff.

A single bench, headed by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, raised questions about whether the SC registrar could file a petition in the high court and where the appeal would be filed after the high court decision.

Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Amir Rehman appeared on behalf of the SC registrar.

The registrar through the AGP Office filed a petition in the IHC against the PIC's July 12 order wherein the SC registrar was directed to share with the appellant the requested information at the earliest, but no later than 20 working days of the receipt of the order.

Surprisingly, it was requested that the petition be fixed before IHC Judge Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb. However, the matter was fixed before the IHC chief justice.

It is also contended that the PIC cannot pass such an order regarding constitutional courts as its jurisdiction is confined only to those departments, which are established under statute/law.

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The petition stated that the impugned orders (of the PIC) are without jurisdiction and in violation of express provisions of the Constitution of and the statutory law on the subject.

The petition pointed out that “the primary function of the PIC is to decide appeals filed under Section 17 of the Right of Access to Information Act (RTI) against the decision or lack thereof the designated public official of the public body”.

The petition contended, “The PIC erred in law while observing that the Supreme Court is a public body and failed to comprehend the difference between the federal law as defined in Article 260 of the Constitution” which means that laws made by or under the authority of parliament, adding that articles 191 and 202 empower the Supreme Court and high courts to frame rules regulating its practice and procedure.

The petition stated, “The direction issued by the PIC in the exercise of power under Section 20 (e) of the Act for the notification of designated officer under Section 9 of the act and to take measure for publication of information and record … applicable to public bodies and not to the constitutional court.”

The petition requested the court to declare the PIC’s order “illegal”.

In May 2019, applicant Mukhtar Ahmed Ali had approached the PIC, seeking particular information about the total sanctioned strength of staff members of the top court against different positions and pay scales.

The data sought details from pay scale I to XXII, along with total vacancies in the top court against different pay scales and positions. The applicant had also sought the dates from which the positions were lying vacant.

The applicant asked for the number of staff members who were not regular but had been engaged on a daily wage basis or through short- or long-term contracts against various positions and pay scales and the number and types of positions created anew since January 1, 2017.

The total number of female, disabled people and transgender staff members against various positions and pay scales working with the SC and a certified copy of the latest approved service rules of the top court were also required.

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