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Wednesday July 24, 2024

SHC directs govt to release funds for special allowance to judicial employees

By Jamal Khurshid
June 22, 2024
A view of facade of the Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — AFP/File
A view of facade of the Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — AFP/File

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday set aside the Sindh government’s office memorandum and decision of the provincial cabinet with regard to freezing of judicial allowance of the high court and its subordinate judiciary employees and directed the government to unfreeze and release the amount of special judicial allowance to all the cadres of the SHC, its benches and circuit courts within two months.

The order came on a petition of high court employees that asked the SHC to issued an order to the provincial government to notify a former chief justice’s directive for unfreezing a special judicial allowance for all cadres of officers and staff of high court and subordinate courts with effect from July 1, 2016.

Mohammad Nusrat Ali and others had submitted in the petition that the SHC registrar had on December 7, 2016, sent a letter to the law department for notifying then high court chief justice’s directive for unfreezing the special judicial allowance.

They said the acting law secretary moved a summary on January 20, 2017, to the chief minister through the finance secretary, who sought a legal opinion of the advocate general, but despite the advocate general’s giving his opinion, no notification had been issued by the government till the filing of the petition.

They stated that such delaying acts on the part of the government, including the chief secretary and the finance secretary, showed that they were not notifying the direction of then former chief justice who was a fully competent authority in view of the rules 15 and 17 of the Sindh High Court Establishment (appointment and conditions of service) Rules 2006.

The petitioners’ counsel submitted that despite the undertaking of the finance department that a special judicial allowance would be implemented from July 1, 2018 for all cadres of officers and staff of the SHC, the allowance of judicial officers and staff of district courts of the province had again been frozen by the provincial government.

The finance secretary had earlier filed a statement with the court submitting that the Sindh government had decided in a cabinet meeting about freezing the special pay/special allowance at the level of admissibility as on June 30, 2022. He submitted that due to massive devastation in floods, resources would be required to build houses of affected people and attend to their basic needs, it would not be possible to increase any allowance that would put an extra burden on the scarce budgetary provision.

A division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi and Justice Abdul Mubeen Lakho after hearing the arguments of the counsel observed that all the cadres of officers and staff of the SHC, its benches and circuit courts, judicial officers and staff of district and civil courts of Sindh were being discriminated by the Sindh government that had frozen the special judicial allowance in a mala fide manner on a false pretext by misinterpreting the leave grant order passed by the Supreme Court which reflected that neither the decision of the high court had been suspended to that effect, nor any stay had been granted against release of such allowance by the apex court.

The high court observed that admittedly, the special judicial allowance was being paid to all the cadres of officers and staff of the high courts, their benches and circuit courts, judicial officers of district judiciary and staff of district and civil courts in all other provinces of Pakistan by their respective governments except by the Sindh government on the pretext of the floods.

The bench observed that the Sindh government had informed the SHC that an appeal had been filed before the SC against the high court judgment, however, no order had been produced whereby the operation of decisions to this effect had been suspended, nor any stay appeared to have been granted or produced whereby the respondents had been allowed to withhold the release of the special judicial allowance.

The SHC set aside the impugned office memorandum with regard to freezing of judicial allowance of the high court and district judiciary employees, and also declared the decision of the provincial cabinet for keeping on hold the matter till a decision of the SC as without lawful authority for having no factual and legal basis.

The high court directed the registrar of the court to tell all the quarters concerned to ensure compliance with the court order, and directed the Sindh government to unfreeze and release the amount of special judicial allowance to the SHC and district judiciary judicial officers and staff.