Thursday, March 23, 2017

Transparency of the Judiciary

Pakistan Today‎‎‎‎: Islamabad: Thursday, March 23, 2017.
A video of former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and his son Arsalan jumping the cue at an airport before boarding a flight went viral yesterday. The controversial ex-CJP’s son’s attempt at justifying breaking the rules by smugly arguing with other passengers that his ‘business class’ ticket afforded him that right, which it does not, is reminiscent of the sacred cow syndrome prevalent in the judiciary.
Coincidentally the Lahore High Court (LHC) registrar on the same day has been asked by the Punjab Information Commission to respond to a complaint under Punjab’s Right to Information Act 2013 (RTI) in which the salary and perks of the Chief Justice of Lahore have been asked to be made public.
Two other RTI’s have also been filed concerning the LHC. One inquires upon the deployment of security personnel to judges specifying the number at their homes and offices separately. The second one attempts to gain some clarity on the recruitment process of the LHC, in particular how much do they collect in application fees and how come applicants, even after having paid the fee, are not informed about their status.
The RTI concerning the Chief Justice of Lahore has been pending since October last year. The observations of the commission about the status of the complaint highlight the reluctance of the LHC registrar to address it. On one hand the LHC registrar denied having received the complaint at all while on the other hand the required Public Information Officer (PIO) has not even been put in place a requirement to be fulfilled within 60 day of the act being passed.
It is most unfortunate that technicalities and delaying tactics are being used by the LHC in order to avoid answering simple questions. High courts are quick to dispense orders and decisions with regards to other institutions but when it comes to their own transparency they refuse to be as expeditious. The information sought after in the RTIs should be made public before the deadline otherwise the credibility of the LHC will further come into question.