Pakistan: After president’s refusal, Parliament again passes SC bill limiting CJP’s power


ISLAMABAD: The joint sitting of Parliament on Monday passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 amid protest by the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers.

Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar moved the bill, which had been returned for reconsideration by President Dr Arif Alvi as per the provisions of Article 75 of the Constitution.

The minister read out the message of the president who returned the bill for reconsideration. He said that the bill was discussed in detail in the National Assembly and it was also approved by the Senate.

The minister responded to the objections to the bill, and said “the president used inappropriate words while returning this bill and used a biased approach”. He said that he should think “as the president rather than a political worker”.

According to the minister, the introduction of the bill was demanded by bar associations and councils who also supported it. He stated that the Bar Council had been pushing for the bill for some time, citing the need to put an end to the indiscriminate use of Article 184(3).

Former minister for law and justice and Senator Farooq H Naek and JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza also spoke on various sections of the bill and were of the view that it was the right time for legislation to ensure reforms in judicial affairs.

MNA Shaza Fatima Khawaja proposed amendments to the bill, which were not opposed by the law minister. He stated that these amendments would enhance transparency and bring more clarity to judicial affairs, particularly in regard to the formation of the bench.

However, the amendments moved by JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed were rejected.

It is mentioned that the president shall give his assent within ten days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given.

Sub-Article 2 of Article 75 of the Constitution of Pakistan states: “When the President has returned a Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), it shall be reconsidered by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in joint sitting and, if it is again passed, with or without amendment, by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), by the votes of the majority of the members of both Houses present and voting; it shall be deemed for the purposes of the Constitution to have been passed by both Houses and shall be presented to the President, and the President shall give his assent within ten days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given.”

The Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, which has been passed, aims to grant the power of taking suo motu notice to a three-member committee consisting of senior judges, including the chief justice. The bill also aims to ensure transparent proceedings in the apex court and includes the right to appeal.

Regarding the constitution of benches, the bill states that every cause, matter or appeal before the apex court would be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by a committee comprising the CJP and the two senior-most judges. It added that the decisions of the committee would be taken by a majority.

Regarding exercising the apex court’s original jurisdiction, the bill said that any matter invoking the use of Article 184(3) would first be placed before the above-mentioned committee.

The bill says that if the committee is of the view that a question of public importance with reference to the 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.

On matters where the interpretation of the Constitution is required, the bill said the above-mentioned committee would compose a bench comprising no less than five apex court judges for the task.

Regarding appeals for any verdict by an apex court bench that exercised Article 184(3)‘s jurisdiction, the bill said that the appeal will lie within 30 days of the bench’s order to a larger Supreme Court bench. It added that the appeal would be fixed for hearing within a period not exceeding 14 days.

It added that this right of appeal would also extend retrospectively to those aggrieved persons against whom an order was made under Article 184(3) prior to the commencement of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023, on the condition that the appeal was filed within 30 days of the act’s commencement.

The bill additionally said that a party would have the right to appoint its counsel of choice for filing a review application under Article 188 of the Constitution.

Furthermore, it states that an application pleading urgency or seeking interim relief, filed in a cause, appeal or matter, shall be fixed for hearing within 14 days from the date of its filing.

The bill said that its provisions would have effect notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, rules, or regulations for the time being in force or judgment of any court, including the Supreme Court and high courts.__Courtesy