Who will guard the guards?

Parliament passes the Supreme Court Bill again, but the crisis continues

By passing the Supreme Court (Procedure and Practises) Act, Parliament may have overcome the refusal of assent by the President, and begun the countdown to its becoming law. However, though it may have thus resolved the intra-Legislative despite that way, it has not resolved the dispute it has with the Judiciary, after the Supreme Court has unprecedentedly granted a stay order against the Act, even though it has not yet become law.

The Supreme Court has apparently objected to the way the Act curtails the power of the Chief Justice to take suo motu notice and to form benches, while allowing appeals against decisions on suo motu cases, because the Court apparently fears that cases might be reopened. It seems to fear that if the Act is allowed to operate, the Supreme Court’s decision on the Punjab Assembly dissolution, made in a suo motu case, might come unstuck. In that case, the Supreme Court’s three-member bench, which was trying to enforce that order, could not The Supreme Court wishes to exercise its constitutional privilege of acting as the final interpreter of the Constitution, but does not seem to have kept in mind that much of its authority rests on perception of its honesty and disinterestedness. Fatally to that perception, an impression has arisen that the judges are playing, for the first time ever, a partisan role, handing down decisions that favoured a particular political party, the PTI. Previous 6dd decisions, favouring military takeovers, may be ascribed to pusillanimity, and are thus qualitatively different. This was also supposed to be why the judiciary gave political decisions, even it was perhaps inevitable that decisions favoured one political party or another.

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Perhaps the only way out would be for the Supreme Court to realize that a loss of confidence in it would lead to a loss of confidence in the Constitution, and in the very system under which the country operates. A perception of partisanship is equally damaging, for its means that opponents feel they will be get a fair shake. The Supreme Court, and at its head the Chief Justice of Pakistan, must take a step back and address this loss of confidence, rather than try to gain victory over Parliament. Parliament must also keep in mind that The Supreme Court is essential to the Constitution, and it too must think of ways to buttress it, rather than defeat it.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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