ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) notice, summoning SC Registrar Dr Faqir Hussain for the scrutiny of the apex court accounts.A three-member bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal and comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Azmat Saeed, heard the constitutional petitions filed against the issuance of the notice to the SC registrar. The bench also issued a notice to the attorney general for Pakistan and suspended any proceedings before the PAC regarding the matter. The experts say the move may reignite the tension between the executive and the judiciary. The court in its order said: “The summons issued to the SC registrar is without jurisdiction and lawful authority. Since the apex court’s independence is linked with the intrinsic fundamental rights, the founding father of Pakistan and the framers of the Constitution wanted independence of the judiciary from other organs of the state, so any scrutiny of the expenditures by PAC will affect its independence, which is in consonance with the scheme of the Constitution.”During the proceedings, Munir A Malik, counsel for Advocate Rasheed A Rizvi, argued that the judiciary and the executive had been separated to ensure the judiciary’s independence and an efficient dispensation of justice.The learned counsel said summoning of the registrar was to undermine the Supreme Court’s authority, which was against the Constitution. Article 68 of the Constitution says: “No discussion shall take place in the Parliament with respect to the conduct of any judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court in the discharge of his duties,” he contended.He pleaded that the PAC had no mandate to examine the court’s administrative expenditures. He said the Supreme Court’s expenses and the judges’ salaries were paid from the Federal Consolidated Fund which the PAC had no authority to scrutinise.The bench noted that since the Supreme Court allocations were made out of the Federal Consolidated Fund, the PAC couldn’t discuss them.The PAC stance is that other departments like the Presidency, Senate, National Assembly, Election Commission of Pakistan and Auditor General of Pakistan would also claim exemptions. These departments also receive their budget allocations from the Federal Consolidated Fund.Justice Afzal said the parliamentary watchdog did not have the authority to audit the expenditures of the courts as, under the Constitution, the judiciary was treated as an autonomous institution.The hearing of the petition was adjourned for an indefinite period.The PAC issued a final notice to the SC registrar on December 15, 2012, to appear before it in connection with the scrutiny of the SC accounts, lying pending since 2006. On the apex court’s refusal to send its registrar, the parliamentary committee referred the matter to the National Assembly on December 19 with a request to either convene a joint session of the Parliament or a special session of the Lower House to take a decision over the nature of action to taken in this regard.Till 2005, the registrar used to appear before the PAC, a practice which discontinued after that. The committee has been urging the Supreme Court since 2008 to review its decision. Eminent jurists and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) have supported the PAC’s stance, urging the apex court to change its stance which, they say, is in violation of the Constitution.The Supreme Court registrar’s point of view is that the PAC is a standing committee on public accounts constituted under Rule 202 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly in 2007. The public accounts of the federation are defined in Article 78 (2) of the Constitution as all moneys, not forming part of the Federal Consolidated Fund. The Constitution further says the sums which are (a) received by or on behalf of the federal government; or (b) received by or deposited with the Supreme Court or any other court established under the authority of the federation shall be credited to the public accounts of the federation”.Only such revenues as do not form part of the Federal Consolidated Fund are thus credited to the public accounts of the federation. The PAC, in terms of rules 202 and 203, has the mandate only in respect of the public accounts of the federation. The expenditures as remuneration payable to the judges of the Supreme Court and its administrative expenses, including the remuneration payable to its officers and servants, are not paid from the public accounts of the federation.