Thursday September 21, 2023

Govt should consult SC on reforms bill: CJP

Hearing of petitions challenging the constitutionality of legislation curtailing CJP's power adjourned soon after it started

June 02, 2023
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial. — Supreme Court website
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial. — Supreme Court website

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Umer Ata Bandial Thursday observed that the government should take the judiciary on board while legislating on its administrative affairs.This observation from the country’s top judge came during the hearing of petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 after the attorney general informed the apex court that the government was reviewing the overlapping of some sections of both the legislations.

The chief justice headed the eight-member bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed.

Last month, the government had enacted the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) ACT 2023 aimed at curtailing the powers of the chief justice of exercising the original jurisdiction of suo motu under Article 184(3) of the Constitution as well as constitution of the benches. The bench suspended the bill on April 13 before it was enacted. However, on April 21, the bill became a law despite that its implementation had been halted by the court.

On Thursday, the bench resumed the proceedings but adjourned the hearing to next week.Attorney General Mansoor Awan told the court that the government had enacted two laws including the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 and the Supreme Court (Review of judgments and orders) Act 2023. He submitted that both the laws had similarities in the sections of review and hiring a lawyer.

Referring to the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023, he said the law was more extensive and included provisions related to the internal affairs of the court. Therefore, he submitted that it was necessary to decide which of the two legislations could be relied upon. The AG submitted that the advice of the judiciary was not taken in the legislation pertaining to its administrative affairs and now amendments would be made to the law with the consultation of the apex court.

The chief justice appreciated the government’s move for reviewing the overlapping of sections of both the legislations saying as long as the government adopted the process of consultation, there would be no distress. The chief justice said they wanted that there should be harmony and matters should be resolve through mutual consultations.

“If there is any matter pertaining to the administrative affairs of the judiciary, then we want that our consent must be taken for avoiding any distress,” the chief justice told attorney general.Referring to the constitution of full court for hearing the matter, the attorney general said Barrister Salahuddin was in the court who could argue as well. At this, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar told him that arguments on the full court would be unjustified and an unnecessary practice when matters were being sorted out through consultation.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar further asked the attorney general whether the government was also reviewing the clause in Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 whereby a three-member committee, comprising chief justice and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court, would decide about the cases to be taken up through the suo motu jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution and constitution of bench for it. The attorney general, however, replied in the negative but submitted that if the court considered, it could be referred to the Parliament. At this, the chief justice observed that they would not do so adding that if they did, it would be considered their opinion.

“But there is another way that we should continue our own work while you should correct the errors you have made and let’s see who is fast,” the chief justice told attorney general in a lighter vein.

At the outset of hearing, Imtiaz Siddiqui, counsel for one of the petitioners, recalled that in the last hearing, the court had sought the record of parliamentary proceedings and debate on the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) bill from the attorney general. At this, the chief justice said that they came through media reports that the Parliament had refused to provide the record.The chief justice said the court had got that record from the website of Parliament.

“They are so kind that they did not delete the record from their website”, the CJP remarked with a smiling face.

Later, the court directed the attorney general to seek further instructions from the government and adjourned the matter to next week without mentioning the date but added that an appropriate order would be passed on the matter on Thursday’s proceedings.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Thursday requested the Supreme Court to dismiss the petitions, challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023. In its concise statement, the PML-Q submitted that the Act 2023 was constitutional and will only serve to promote the independence of judiciary, rule of law, the right to access to justice and fair trial as guaranteed in the Constitution.

The PML Q submitted that pursuant to Article 191, the Parliament clearly had the right to legislate on matters pertaining to the practice and procedure of the SC adding that the Parliament also had the right to enact the subject legislation and had done so strictly in accordance with the law and the Constitution.