National Assembly panel approves judges' pension bill -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

National Assembly panel approves judges’ pension bill

By: Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: A National Assembly committee approved on Tuesday a constitutional amendment bill for an increase in family pensions of superior court judges.

The committee cleared the Validation Ordinance 2012, aimed at protecting the acts of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, for its presentation before the lower house of the parliament in the form of a bill.

The standing committee on law, justice and parliamentary affairs, which met under its chairperson Nasim Akhtar Chaudhry of PPP, approved the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill 2012 seeking 50 per cent increase in the pension of widows of the judges of the superior courts despite its opposition by MNA Pervez Khan of ANP.

Law Minister Farooq H. Naek had introduced the bill in the National Assembly on July 9, the day when the lower house passed the now defunct contempt of court law.

During the same sitting, the law minister had laid the “Validation Ordinance 2012” in the form of a bill that had been promulgated by President Asif Ali Zardari on June 24 to protect the acts done by Yousuf Raza Gilani as the country’s prime minister between April 26 and June 19 and restraining the courts, including the Supreme Court, from entertaining any challenge to them.

At the time of the presentation of the family pension bill, some opposition members had alleged that the government was doing it to bribe the judges.

The law minister rejected suggestions that it was meant as a bribe to judges, saying it was being done actually in response to a reference from the judiciary itself. The bill seeks amendment to the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution which deals with “Remuneration and terms and conditions of service of judges.”

Presently, the widow of a judge of the Supreme Court or a high court is entitled to get 50 per cent of the net pension payable to the judge, if he dies after retirement. After the passage of the bill, the widows will be entitled to get “75 per cent or such higher pension as the president may determine from time to time.”

Pervez Khan insisted that the members should be provided with complete details of the salary and allowances of the judges besides seeking their approval to the amendment bill. However, officials of the law ministry first showed some reluctance, but later provided the details when the members protested.

The salaries of the superior court judges, according to them, were last time revised in October 2011 through a presidential order. Presently, the salary of the chief justice of Pakistan is Rs448,221 and that of other judges of the Supreme Court it is Rs423,414.

The salary of the chief justice of a high court is Rs415,242 and that of other judges it is Rs399,447.

The bill, according to its “statement of objects and reasons,” has been introduced on the basis of applications from widows of the judges demanding that their pension should also be increased as done in the case of widows of civil servants, including those retired from defence services, in the 2010-11 budgets.

VALIDATION ORDINANCE: The committee approved the “Validation Bill 2012” that had been issued by the president as an ordinance to validate “acts, orders and instruments etc done made and issued by the prime minister” from April 26, when he was convicted by the apex court on contempt charges, and June 19, when a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, disqualified him with retrospective effect.

Under the law, the acts committed by Mr Gilani during April 26 to June 19 cannot be challenged in any court of law.