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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) said the perks, privileges and entitlements of the chief justices and judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts are governed under the respective Presidential Orders issued from time to time.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah, on Tuesday, heard the petition of Jurists Foundation through Riaz Hanif Rahi advocate challenging the provision of official security protocol to the former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed, who retired on February 2, 2022.

The bench after hearing the arguments disposed of the petition.

The Jurists Foundation challenged a letter of request, dated 27 January 2022, executed on behalf of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and addressed to the secretary, Ministry of Interior, while the said letter of request is regarding providing security to Justice Ahmed after his retirement.

The IHC chief justice noted in his verdict that nothing has been placed on record to show that the impugned letter of request has been acted upon, nor that the proceedings have been taken or any act has been done pursuant thereto.

He added that the impugned letter of request, unless acted upon by the competent authority does not prejudice the rights of the petitioner Foundation, or the citizens of Pakistan.

Justice Minallah said, “The executive authorities, therefore, are required to strictly follow the prescribed privileges and entitlements as has already been held by this Court in the judgment reported as “Sheikh Ahsan-ud-Din and 2 others v. Federation of Pakistan through Secretary Ministry of Interior and others.”

He continued, “There is also no cavil to the proposition, and as held by the august Supreme Court in the judgment reported as “Suo Motu Case No.15 of 2009 (Corruption in Pakistan Steel Mills)” that “higher the position of an individual, greater the responsibility and the accountability”. The judges exist solely to serve the people. Their exalted positions exposed them to a more rigorous and stringent scrutiny than other public office holders.”

The CJ noted that assessing security threat to a citizen falls within the exclusive domain of the executive authorities and every public office holder after retirement has to be dealt with as an equal citizen having regard to his or her entitlements prescribed under the law.

He added that every decision taken by the executive authorities ought to be tested on the touchstone of public interest and the welfare and wellbeing of the people. Every public office holder is answerable to the people.

He further said that the Court expects that while considering the impugned letter of request, the executive authorities would be mindful of their obligations and duties that they owe towards the people.

The judge said that in the case in hand, the constitutional petition is not competent against the impugned letter of request, dated 27 January 2022, and, therefore, it is disposed of with the expectation that the executive authorities would take such decisions as are in consonance with public interest and their constitutional obligations towards the sole stakeholders of the governance system, i.e., the people of Pakistan.

In the petition, Rahi contended that the government had granted Justice (retired) Ahmed heavy security on taxpayers’ money even though the number of pending cases increased by 10,000 during his tenure and Pakistan had been downgraded in the global rule of law index, falling to 130th rank out of 139 countries.

The petition also mentioned a previous IHC’s order as a legal precedent, in which, the court declared official security provision to former CJP Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry as illegal.

According to the petition, Justice (retired) Ahmed held the highest judicial office of the country as the 27th chief justice of Pakistan from December 21, 2019 to February 2, 2022 and the former chief judge sought the continuation of foolproof police and Rangers security from the Interior Ministry, which “abused” the power to accept the said request.

It said that the permission to provide official security to the retired judge “has been issued under extraneous considerations and for mala fide reasons just to burden the public exchequer for personal benefits.”

Therefore, the petitioner requested the court to set aside the Interior Ministry’s letter of January 27 that provides official security to former CJP Ahmed after his retirement.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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