ISLAMABAD: The administration of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has expedited investigations into numerous defects in the high court building following the malfunctioning of a lift in which 18 people, including the lead counsel of the PTI chief, were stranded for more than 40 minutes.
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The IHC administration ordered an investigation into the lift malfunction on 25 August and requested a report, which was submitted to the chief justice on Monday.
A senior official told Dawn that the IHC chief justice had already ordered an investigation into the building’s defective air conditioning system and other construction defects.
According to him, the investigation committee will record the statements of the appropriate officials, including the sessions judges who were assigned to supervise the construction work.
After the conclusion of the investigation, the contractor may face NAB and FIA proceedings.
Once the investigation is complete, the matter may be referred to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), according to an official.
Sources revealed that former IHC chief justice Athar Minallah, while presiding over a meeting last year, stated that the contractor would be sent to prison first and the high court could be relocated subsequently. The former chief justice was in favour of remanding the case to the NAB, but the decision was deferred due to concerns that the construction would be delayed if the case was sent to the bureau.
The construction began in November 2013 and lasted approximately a decade. The structure was made operational in June of this year. Upon the relocation of the Supreme Court to the new facility on Constitution Avenue, a number of issues arose.
The HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system, which cost Rs550 million, was malfunctioning. Recently, the malfunctioning lift suggested that the building posed grave threats to the lives of litigants, attorneys, court staff and even supreme court justices.
In addition, the IHC’s boundary wall collapsed earlier this month, prompting Chief Justice Aamer Farooq to order an investigation. Following the collapse of the boundary wall, the Pakistan Public Works Department sent a letter to the housing ministry stating, “The newly constructed Islamabad High Court’s filtration plant is not functioning properly.” The HVAC System, for which the contractor was paid in full in June 2022, was inoperable.
It stated that “as a result, additional split units have been provided” for “judges and senior staff,” while lower-level employees worked without air conditioning. Similarly, the IHC building’s firefighting system, IT, electrical protection system, and security systems have not yet been installed.
In October of last year, the building’s resident engineer pointed out issues with the elevators, but his advice evidently fell on deaf ears. The engineer pointed out in his letter that the lift operating panel installed in the courthouse chamber and the office building were not identical in design and shape.
In a subsequent letter dated May 8, the resident engineer reiterated that the lifts and other electrical and mechanical systems were not up to code and requested that the housing ministry investigate the issue promptly.