|Mustering support: Experts term SC refusal to be audited ‘unconstitutional’|
12 October 2012
Faced with an adamant apex court, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday brought in legal experts to comment on the matter of auditing the judiciary’s accounts.
Some of the country’s top legal experts unanimously said that the Supreme Court’s decision to bar its registrar from appearing before the PAC is a ‘violation of the Constitution’ and an act that undermines the supremacy of parliament.
Those who expressed these views included President of the Supreme Court Bar Association Yaseen Azad, Justice (retd) Tariq Mahmood and Lahore High Court’s Justice Shabbar Raza Rizvi.
Since 2006, the Supreme Court has been refusing to allow the parliamentary financial watchdog to quiz its registrar over the apex court’s financial accounts.
The PAC had invited eight lawyers – three of them came to the meeting and two, Barristers Atizaz Ahsan and Wasim Sajjad, promised to submit their comments in writing. Hamid Ali and SM Zafar refused to give their views while former attorney general Makhdoom Ali was out of the country.
Mediation as last resort
The PAC would not tolerate violation of the Constitution, said committee chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan.
If this becomes a precedent, then every other department will refuse to appear before the PAC, citing the Supreme Court example, he added.
The body also accepted mediation offer of President SCBA Yasin Azad to resolve the standoff. Azad advised the committee to first exhaust all options and said he would personally take up the matter with Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Constitutionally, the Supreme Court is bound to appear before the PAC since any department taking funds from the exchequer is answerable to parliament, Azad said. Referring to the apex court’s move to hold a full court meeting on the matter, Azad said there was no rationale for such a move.
The PAC decided that if Azad’s efforts fail to yield any result, it would send a notice to the registrar.
Who judges the judges?
Justice Mahmood said the money allocated to the Supreme Court does not belong to the court, or parliament. The money belongs to taxpayers and they have the right to ask, through their representatives, where and how the money is utilised, irrespective of “how big the recipient is”, he said.
According to National Assembly rules, the PAC can use coercive measures if a person refuses to appear before it, he added. He disagreed with the apex court’s views that it has internal mechanisms in place, and said that “no one should be judge of their own cause.”
The sitting judges are, no doubt, honest but what is the guarantee that in future all judges of the apex court will be honest, he questioned.
The strongest comments were given by Shabbar Rizvi who said: “Whosoever is obstructing constitutional obligations is violating the Constitution.”
Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue Manzar Mian said that all appropriation accounts related to the apex court were pending for last several years.
According to a brief, appropriation accounts involving Rs3.3 billion were pending for a decision before the PAC due to the Supreme Court’s refusal to appear before the committee.
The Auditor General of Pakistan said that only appropriation accounts were pending as no audit report involving the SC has been printed so far. He said all objections raised by the audit department were settled and in some cases recoveries were made. Where required, the court took necessary steps, he said.
The PAC barred the audit department from settling the Supreme Court’s objections as these powers rest solely with the committee.
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