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Saturday June 15, 2024

Full court to take up petitions against law limiting CJP’s powers today

A 15-member full court bench of Supreme Court will hear the case at 9:30am

By Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui & Maryam Nawaz
September 17, 2023
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — Supreme Court website/File
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — Supreme Court website/File 

A 15-member full court bench of the top court headed by newly-appointed Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa will take up a set of petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act on Monday (today).

As per the cause list issued by the SC’s registrar office, a 15-member full court bench will hear the case tomorrow (Monday) at 9:30am.

Well-placed sources revealed that the full court proceedings will be broadcast live. They added that the information ministry is taking necessary steps to live telecast of the proceedings.

An 8-member larger bench headed by former chief justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha A Malik, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed had previously heard the petitions challenging the constitutionality of the law aimed at curtailing the suo moto powers of the apex court's top judge.

During the previous hearing in June, the similarities between the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023 — which relates to the right of appeal in suo motu cases — and the SC Practice and Procedure Act were discussed with Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan saying that parliament could look into "harmonising" the two Acts.

The then-CJP — while he welcomed the proposal — said that the federal government should take the top court into consideration when making any legislation related to the judiciary.

Subsequently, the AGP told the ex-CJP that immediate legislation on the Acts was not possible due to the upcoming budget session — held on June 9. He requested the court to hold the hearing after the session, following which the hearings for the Acts were scheduled for September 18 (tomorrow).

PTI wants law nullified

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had earlier petitioned the top court to declare the Act as ultra vires to the Constitution.

The PTI, through its counsel Uzair Karamat Bhandari, filed a concise statement in the petitions challenging the Act and prayed to the apex court to strike down sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 of the Act.

Moreover, the party submitted that the Act is beyond parliament’s legislative competence and is unlawful in that it impinges on the independence of the judiciary “which has time and again been recognised by this court as a fundamental feature of the Constitution”.

PTI’s petition also maintained that the Act went against the settled interpretations of various constitutional provisions by the apex court.

The controversial bill

The bill, aimed at regulating the powers of the CJP, was approved by the parliament during a joint sitting on April 10.

The National Assembly, on April 21, notified the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 as an act.

However, even before it became an Act, the bill was challenged in the Supreme Court, and, on April 13, the same bench hearing the case halted its implementation, observing that the bill would not be acted upon in any manner till further order.

"The moment that the Bill receives the assent of the President or (as the case may be) it is deemed that such assent has been given, then from that very moment onwards and till further orders, the Act that comes into being shall not have, take or be given any effect nor be acted upon in any manner," read the nine-page interim order issued on April 13.

In its order, the bench stated that the facts and circumstances presented here are extraordinary both in import and effect.