SC suspends PAC summons to its registrar
02 January, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) notice summoning the SC Registrar Dr Faqir Hussain for the scrutiny of the apex court's accounts.
A three-member bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal and comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Azmat Saeed, while hearing the constitutional petitions against issuance of the notice to the SC registrar, has also issued notice to the attorney general of Pakistan and suspended, if any, proceedings before the PAC regarding the matter. The court in its order said: "The summon issued to SC registrar is without jurisdiction and lawful authority."
Since the apex court's independence is linked with the intrinsic fundamental rights, the court said that the founding father of Pakistan and the framers of the constitution wanted the independence of judiciary from other organs of the state, therefore any scrutiny of the expenditures by the PAC would affect its independence.
The bench noted that since Supreme Court allocations are made out of the Federal Consolidated Fund, therefore the PAC could not discuss them. Justice Afzal said that the parliamentary watchdog did not have the authority to audit the expenditure of the courts, as according to the constitution, the judiciary was treated as an autonomous institution. During the hearing, Munir A Malik, counsel for Advocate Rasheed A Rizvi, argued that the judiciary and the executive had been kept detached in order to ensure the judiciary's independence as well as to ensure the efficient dispensation of justice.
The counsel said that summoning of the SC registrar would undermine the Supreme Court's authority, which is against the constitution. According to Article 68 of the Constitution "no discussion shall take place in parliament with respect to the conduct of any judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court in the discharge of his duties," he argued, and pleaded that the PAC did not have the mandate to examine the court's administrative expenditures. Malik said that Supreme Court's expenses and the judges' salaries were paid from the Federal Consolidated Fund, which the PAC had no authority to scrutinise.
The PAC has taken the stance that like the Supreme Court, other departments, like the Presidency, Senate, National Assembly, Election Commission of Pakistan and Auditor General of Pakistan, would also claim exemptions. These departments also allocated funds from the Federal Consolidated Fund. The hearing of the petition was adjourned indefinitely.
The PAC had on December 15 issued a final notice to the SC registrar to appear before it for scrutiny of the apex court's appropriation accounts, which had been pending since 2006. Due to the court's refusal to send its registrar to the parliamentary committee, the latter had on December 19 referred the matter to the National Assembly with a request to either convene a joint session of parliament or a special session of the lower house to take a decision over what action to take.
Until 2005, the registrar used to appear before the PAC – a practice discontinued since then. The committee has been urging the Supreme Court to review its decision since 2008. Eminent jurists and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) have also supported the PAC's stance and have urged the apex court to change its stance which, they say, is in violation of the constitution.
The Supreme Court registrar's point of view is that the PAC is a Standing Committee on Public Accounts constituted under Rule 202 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007. The public accounts of the federation are defined in Article 78(2) of the constitution as all moneys, not forming part of the Federal Consolidated Fund.
These sums which are: "(a) received by or on behalf of the federal government; or (b) received by or deposited with the Supreme Court or any other court established under the authority of the federation; shall be credited to the public account of the federation".
Only such revenues as do not form part of the Federal Consolidated Fund, are thus credited to and comprise the public accounts of the federation. The PAC, in terms of Rules 202 and 203 of the Rules has the mandate only in respect of the public accounts of the federation.