The Senate on Tuesday asked Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Salman Aslam Butt to appear before the upper house today (Wednesday) and answer lawmakers’ queries about the perks and privileges enjoyed by the retired heads of the superior judiciary .
Senate Chairman Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari summoned the AGP after Minister for Information, Law and Justice Pervaiz Rashid told the house that the Supreme Court has not responded to six letters of his ministry on the subject.
The minister, however, revealed that he had ‘verbally’ learnt that former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is driving a 6000cc bullet-proof Mercedes Benz in pursuance to a January 2014 judgment of the Islamabad High Court (IHC). “The law ministry bears expenditures of the vehicle’s fuel and maintenance,” he added.
In response to a question from PPP Senator Saeed Ghani, the minister said that since January 30, 2014 as much as 4,689 litres of petrol has been issued to the car while a repair estimate of Rs337,5029 has been presented to the law division for which funds through a special grant are required from the finance division.
“An intra-court appeal has been filed in the IHC against provision of bullet proof-vehicle to the former CJP but despite applications seeking early hearing, the appeal is still pending,” he said.
The reply ignited a debate and the Senate chairman, referring to Article 205 (fifth schedule) of the Constitution regarding remuneration of judges, questioned whether rules were amended to provide a bullet-proof car to the former CJP.
“We have not asked anything secret. The Constitution allows us to have this information. Is the Supreme Court registrar not bound to provide relevant information to the house,” asked Senator Ghani.
This led to a discussion on the relative superiority of different pillars of state as ANP Senator Zahid Khan asked: “Is the Supreme Court above the parliament?” Some members also showed concerns over Supreme Court’s reluctance to share information.
Afterwards, the chairman asked leader of the opposition Aitzaz Ahsan, Senator Rafiq Rajwana and Babar Awan to assist the house on the issue. Rashid told Senate the government would agree with whatever decision the upper house took.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2015.
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