- Draft bill states committee of three SC judges will decide on any suo moto case
- PM Shehbaz terms voices from within judiciary ‘new ray of hope’ to reduce CJP’s powers
ISLAMABAD: The federal government tabled a legislative bill in the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking to curtail the discretionary powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, leaving the decision of taking up any suo moto case to the three senior-most judges of the apex court.
Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar introduced “The Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023,” after the federal cabinet approved it earlier in the evening. NA Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf subsequently referred the tabled bill to the NA’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice for its approval.
On the other hand, a meeting of the standing committee has been summoned on Wednesday (today) at 10pm to take up the matter. The committee is expected to swiftly approve the judicial reforms bill, after which it will be sent back to Parliament.
Seeking to curtail the discretionary powers of the chief justice, the judicial reforms bill states: “Every cause, appeal or matter before the Supreme Court shall be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by the Committee comprising the Chief Justice of Pakistan and two senior most judges, in order of seniority,”
The decisions of such a committee shall be by majority, it adds.
Regarding suo moto powers, the bill seeks to ensure that any matter invoking exercise of original jurisdiction under Article 184 (3) shall be first placed before the committee of three senior-most judges.
“If the Committee is of the view that a question of public importance with reference to enforcement of any of the fundamental rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II of the Constitution is involved, it shall constitute a bench comprising not less than three judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan which may also include the members of the Committee, for adjudication of the matter,” it adds.
The legislation also allows appeals within 30 days of a verdict being issued on a suo motu case and enforces that a bench be constituted to hear such an appeal within 14 days.
“An appeal shall lie within thirty days from a final order of a bench of the Supreme Court who exercised jurisdiction under clause (3) of Article 184 of the Constitution to a larger bench of the Supreme Court and such appeal shall, for hearing, be fixed within a period not exceeding fourteen days,” read the draft.
The development comes amid a growing debate in the country over the discretionary powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute benches, ‘fix’ cases, and initiate public interest proceedings under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.
“Voices from within judiciary a new ray of hope”
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged the National Assembly to legislate on reducing the powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, stating that the voices from within the judiciary were a ‘new ray of hope’. The premier said that history would not forgive the National Assembly if it did not pass the legislation.
Addressing the NA session, the prime minister read out a dissenting order issued by Supreme Court judges Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah on a suo motu case over the delay of elections to the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies.
On Monday, the two dissenting judges of the apex court had issued a 27-page order, stating that the suo motu case regarding the Punjab and K-P elections date announcement had been dismissed by a majority of four judges out of seven.
The 27-page ‘order of the court’ by the two dissenting judges was in stark contrast to the Supreme Court’s earlier order which had ruled in a 3-2 verdict that polls in K-P and Punjab be held within 90 days.
In the order, the judges also called for “revisiting the power of the one-man show enjoyed by the office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan” in order to “strengthen” the institution and “ensure public trust and confidence” in the apex court.
“No one holding the favourite accountable”
During his address Shehbaz Sharif slammed “the favourite” – referring to PTI chairman Imran Khan, stating that the nation was confused and divided due to the ongoing political crisis and no one was holding Imran accountable.
The incumbent premier continued that Imran did not appear before any courts and received exemptions, declaring that “enough was enough”. He stated that the law would take its course and Imran would not be allowed to “play with Pakistan.”
PM Shehbaz said the entire political leadership came together in 1973, forgot their differences and made the constitution.
Live 🔴 Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressing his views in session of National Assembly.https://t.co/wZhWk3HHYP
— Government of Pakistan (@GovtofPakistan) March 28, 2023
He furthered that last year, the current government was in opposition benches when different political parties decided to table the no-confidence motion as per the constitution. The premier further said that the political parties in the current government have put their politics at stake to save the state, which was a lesson for the entire nation.
PM Shehbaz added that the constitution clearly defined the division of powers between the legislature, judiciary and administration, and set a red line that no one would be able to cross.
He stated that the ongoing situation was apparent for everyone to see and a mockery was being made of the constitution. Shehbaz maintained that the powers of the legislature in the constitution and the powers of the judiciary were being flouted.
Specifically highlighting the matter of the PTI chief threatening a judge, Shehbaz said “no one took notice of the matter” despite the facts of the case being evident before the entire nation.