LAHORE - Justice Muhammad Farrukh Irfan Khan of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday suspended an administrative notification about premature retirement of the court registrar, earlier allowed by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, and referred the case to the chief justice for constitution of a larger bench on it.

Justice Khan passed the order on a petition moved by Abdullah Malik, a member of the civil society. During the proceedings, the advocate general of Punjab (AGP) asked the bench to hold in-camera proceedings on the case due to sensitivity of the case and reputation of the institution concerned. However, the judge rejected the plea and observed that restriction could not be put on information after promulgation of Article 10-A of the Constitution. “Judiciary is not a sacred cow,” the judge observed, adding, “courts are run with public money”.

The AGP opposed the petition, questioning its maintainability. The law officer said it was an administrative matter and related to powers of the chief justice. He said that such a matter could not be fixed on the judicial side.

On this, Justice Khan asked the law officer, would the chief justice not have to account for if an administrative order is passed against the law? However, the law officer said there were other remedies available on administrative side and administrative committee of the high court could deal with such matters. He said the chief justice had administrative powers and constitutional jurisdiction of the high court could not be invoked against it.

Advocate Azhar Siddique appeared on behalf of petitioner Abdullah Malik and said that premature retirement of Syed Khursheed Anwar Rizvi was mala fide. He submitted that a judicial officer could not be appointed registrar of the Lahore High Court under the Lahore High Court’s establishment rules. Rizvi was a district and sessions judge before retirement.

The lawyer said that a judicial officer could be appointed registrar through the public service commission as per rules. The petitioner stated that any officer from the establishment of the high court could be appointed registrar.

He said that Rizvi’s appointment was made in violation of establishment’s rules. He is drawing Rs400,000 judicial allowance per month besides his salary and other perks and privileges, he said.

The lawyer said that Rizvi was a district and sessions judge. He said Rizvi was neither a member of the Civil Services of Pakistan (Pakistan Administrative Service Group) nor Provincial Management Service (PMS). He said the LHC chief justice did not consult the Punjab Public Service Commission on Rizvi’s appointment as registrar. He said the LHC chief justice had passed the impugned order on Feb 9, 2017, without jurisdiction to sanction grant of Superior Executive Allowance of Rs400,000 per month to the registrar in addition to his salary.

He asked the court to set aside the notification for Rizvi’s appointment as registrar of the high court. He asked the court to set aside his premature retirement and order him to return all perks and privileges to the state.