ISLAMABAD: The division bench of Islamabad High Court (IHC) noticed that a bulletproof car had been given to the former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP), Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, without any legal provision.
The two-judge division bench found nine loopholes in the decision passed by a single-member bench for the provision of the bulletproof car to the ex-CJP and referred the matter back to the judge for rehearing.
According to the detailed order issued by the IHC division bench, comprising Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi and Justice Aamer Farooq, the single bench had issued its order without referring to the relevant legislation and giving an opportunity of hearing to the stakeholders.
The single-member bench, comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, on January 15, 2014, directed the federal government to provided the bulletproof vehicle to the former CJP and also bear its maintenance and fuel-related expenses.
Division bench of Islamabad High Court says bulletproof car was given to Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry without any legal provision
Justice Siddiqui also directed the inspector general of the capital police to provide additional security to Mr Chaudhry. It added: “the former chief justice shall be provided foolproof security, along with possession of the aforementioned bulletproof car for his and his family use without putting embargo of any time specification.”
The federal government later filed an appeal against the order, saying that the single-member bench had issued the direction without hearing the stance of the cabinet division, which was the custodian of the bulletproof car, and the law ministry, which had been assigned the task to provide free petrol for the car.
But the division bench in its detailed judgment pointed out that “the relief was granted against the appellants (cabinet division and the law ministry), who were neither parties cited in the array of respondents.” It added: “Certain directions (regarding providing bullet proof car and fuel) were issued to the parties without inviting comments from them.”
The question of locus standi (of the petitioners seeking the bulletproof car for the ex-CJP) was not examined. “Relief was granted without referring to any provision of law,”, “single judge…did not apply independent mind by disposing of the writ petition,”, “legal and factual questions raised in intra court appeal (of the federal government) could have been raised if proper opportunity would have been granted… while hearing the writ petition.”
The verdict added: “Observing all the above legal and factual infirmities, we are of the firm view that these questions, which are necessary for deciding the controversy have not been properly adverted to. Hence these are sufficient grounds for remand of the case to the learned single judge in chamber.”
The division bench set aside the judgment passed on January 15, 2014, with the observations that the “the matter is remanded back for deciding afresh after considering the above legal and factual aspects mentioned above.”
The division bench also remanded an application filed by advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi seeking to become a party in the case to the single-member bench.
It may be noted that Mr Rahi is known for filing petitions on controversial issues. In the past, courts also fined him for filing ‘frivolous’ petitions.
He was also seeking the retrieval of the bulletproof car from the ex-CJP. After the IHC issued a detailed verdict in the matter, the lawyer wrote a letter to the secretary cabinet asking him to get back the bulletproof car. In another letter, he also requested the law ministry to discontinue the provision of free fuel to the retired judge. He also asked the inspector general of the police to withdraw the additional security from the residence of the former CJP.
A senior officer of the federal government, when contacted, told Dawn that the detail order of the IHC division bench had not been examined as yet. He said after examining the decision, the government would be in a position to ascertain whether the ex-CJ can use the facility of the bulletproof car or free fuel or not.
Advocate Ahsanuddin Sheikh, on whose petition the IHC single-member bench had ordered the provision of the bulletproof car to the ex-CJP, however, insisted that the division bench never asked Mr Chaudhry to return the car.
He added that the single bench had rightly ordered the provision of the car to the former CJP as under the staff car rules 1980, vulnerable dignitaries may retain bulletproof cars.
“The matter has been remanded back to the single bench where we would explain our locus standi and the relevant rules regarding the retention of the bulletproof car,” he said.