A three-year contract that produces millionaires

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Shafaqna Pakistan: Did you know that a mere three-year contract job as a judge in the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court (G-B SAC) can make you a millionaire, besides entitling you to a huge monthly pension for life? Incredibly, the chief judge of the GB apex court gets over Rs 60 million upon completion of his three-year contract in addition to over Rs one million per month as pension.

The G-B SAC comprises a chief judge and two other judges. Like the chief judge, the two judges are also entitled to similar pensionary benefits.

Advocate Muhammad Ibrahim, who is a permanent resident of GB, told The News that he has recently filed a petition before the Supreme Court on the matter. He referred to the SCP’s verdict of 2008 which had entitled the judges, irrespective of their length of service, for the pension and pension-related benefits.

This judgment was announced by a bench of the SCP headed by the then Judge Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, who after his retirement from service on reaching 65 years of age, was appointed by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs as chief judge of the then Northern Area’s Supreme Appellate Court in January 2009 for a period of three years. Two other judges, the late Syed Jaffar Shah and Muhammad Yaqub, were also appointed as judges of the NAs Supreme Appellate Court in May 2009 for a period of three years.

Ibrahim, who practices law in Rawalpindi-Islamabad and is member of the Rawalpindi Bar Council, told The News that the chief judge and judges of the NAs Supreme Appellate Court, who had returned to their hometowns on completion of their tenure, had filed a representation to extend their pension benefits in the light of the Supreme Court of Pakistan judgment (reported as PLD-2008 SC page-522), which was submitted by the registrar of the NAs Supreme Appellate Court to the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs, Islamabad.

The Government of Pakistan had enforced the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self- Governance) Order-2009 on September 9, 2009 by repealing the previous Governance Order-1994 of the region and prescribed qualification, tenure of appointment and other terms and conditions of service for the chief judge and judges of the GB Supreme Appellate Court.

Article 60 (8) of the G-B Order-2009 provides that “the chief judge and judges of the Supreme Appellate Court G-B shall be appointed for a term not exceeding three years and may be appointed for such further term as the Government of Pakistan may determine, unless they sooner resign or are removed from office in accordance with the law.” Article 60 (10) provides that “the remuneration and other terms and conditions of service of the chief judge and judges of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court shall be such as are admissible to the chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The qualifications for appointment of chief judge and judges of the G-B SAC are identical to the chief justice of the Federal Shariat Court.”

There was, however, no superannuation age for the chief judge and judges of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court like that of the chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan as envisaged in Article 179 of the Constitution of Pakistan-1973.

Advocate Ibrahim said that the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs through a letter dated October 6, 2009 (after the enforcement of the G-B Order-2009) had accepted the representation of the former chief judge and judges of the then NAs Supreme Appellate Court and allowed the benefits in the light of the 2008 judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The second batch of judges (chief judge and two judges) of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court (SAC) had rendered an independent judgment on the touchstone of the SCP of Pakistan judgment (which was extended to GB by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs on October 6, 2009) in a suo motu case and had interpreted various provisions of the G-B Order-2009 to entitle the chief judge and judges of the G-B SAC for pension benefits as admissible to the chief justice and judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan under Presidential Order No. 2/1997. This batch of judges had got the hefty pension and other privileges, including the down payment on a vehicle, on completion of a three-year term plus some extra privileges.

In 2013, a five-member bench of the SCP had nullified the judgment of 2008 and held that judges with less than five years’ service could not get pensionary benefits. However, the SC’s 2013 verdict did not stop the pension and other benefits extended to the judges of the G-B SAC.

The 2009 judgment, authored by the bench of the G-B SAC headed by Nawaz Abbasi, was twice reviewed by the fourth batch of judges headed by the chief judge Rana Muhammad Shamim and had allowed more benefits to the chief judge and judges of the said court.

The Government of Pakistan had repealed the G-B Order-2009 and enforced the Government of Gilgit- Baltistan Order-2018 on June 1, 2018. Article 75 (10) of the Order-2018 provided that: The remuneration of the chief judge and judges of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court shall be such as admissible to the chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Provided that the chief judge and judges of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court shall not be entitled to any pension or related benefits.

However, Rana Muhammad Shamim, who was appointed as chief judge of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court on August 24, 2015 at the age of 65 years and who had completed his three-year tenure on August 30, 2018 at the age of 68 years, had obtained the hefty pension commutation amounting to Rs 67,306,073 and a monthly pension, down payment on a vehicle of 2,700 CC (Toyota Fortuner), plus regular and contingent paid staff.

Chief judges and other judges of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court appointed from 2005 to 2016 (batch one to four) on completion of their respective three-year terms had obtained the commutation of pensions in millions of rupees and are still getting a monthly pension and other privileges from the national exchequer.

Source: The News( Writer: Ansar Abbasi)