Attorney General for Pakistan Usman Mansoor Awan on Monday requested the Supreme Court (SC) to form a full court bench to hear the pleas challenging law curtailing the chief justice’s powers.
An eight-member bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul 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, was hearing the pleas.
In today’s hearing, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman requested the bench to constitute a full court. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawyer Salahuddin Ahmed also forwarded plea for the formation of the full court to hear the matter. Justice Ijazul Ahsan said PML-N’s petition had not yet been allocated a registration number.
At this point CJP Umar ata Bandial inquired from AGP Usman if he had submitted the record of the National Assembly’s proceedings which the court had sought at the last hearing.
While responding the AGP said that they expected the records to be received by tomorrow (Tuesday). He informed the court that they had contacted the National Assembly Speaker’s office in this regard.
AGP Awan argued that the court had declared that the basic structure of the Constitution was present. The judicial reform law involves the matter of the formation of benches and appeals, he said.
The bill also gives the right to change the lawyer, he added.
He further stated that the matters decided in the bill were of administrative nature and the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedures) Act, 2023, could be amended by a full court.
He said that cases related to the independence of the judiciary and rules should also be heard by a full court. Moreover, the law will also apply directly to judges who are not hearing the case.
At this, Justice Ahsan remarked that the question was not about the amendments, but whether there were such legislative powers or not. Meanwhile, Justice Naqvi inquired if there had been any legislation like the bill in question in the past.
At this, the AGP maintained that the president’s permission was required to make the rules until 1973.
Responding to the AGP Mansoor Awan, Justice Ayesha Malik said any bench can hear the cases at SC. “Do government wants to take advantage of the full court,” she asked.
After the arguments Supreme Court orders to submit a parliamentary record by tomorrow in petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, aimed at clipping the powers of the CJP.
Remember that on the last hearing, Supreme Court (SC) issued notices to the government, AGP, political parties, bar councils, and others to submit their response in the petitions against Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023.
National Assembly of Pakistan approved the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 which aim is to limit Pakistan’s top judge’s powers to take suo motu notice.
The bill was passed hours after National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice gave its consent. The bill was presented by Federal Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar.
The development came after two Supreme Court judges — Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail — raised questions over the powers of the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP), saying the apex court “cannot be dependent on the solitary decision of one man, the Chief Justice”.
The bill includes shifting the powers of taking suo motu notice from the chief justice to a three-member committee comprising senior judges. Under the new legislation, the decision for suo motu notice will be taken by three senior judges of the Supreme Court (SC).
The bill also mentioned that the decision of the committee shall be by the majority. However, the two SC judges in their detailed notes had juxtaposed majority rule with “dictatorship”.
Moreover, the bill also includes a clause regarding the right to appeal against the decision, which could be filed within 30 days and will then be fixed for a hearing in two weeks’ time.
It added that the party will be allowed to change its lawyer in a suo motu case. Under Article 184, the matter will be presented before a judge’s committee. The committee will review the case and later it will form a five-member committee for any kind of constitutional interpretation.
The National Assembly, on 21st April notified the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 as an act. After which The bill’s implementation was halted by the same bench hearing the case today.
The bill implementation was halted as President Arif Alvi rejected the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023 sacking the chief justice’s suo motu powers in an individual capacity.
The president returned the bill for reconsideration to the parliament as per the provisions of the Article 75 of the Constitution days after it was sent to him for approval after getting through the National Assembly and Senate.
Arif Alvi stated that the Bill prima-facie travels beyond the competence of the Parliament and can be assailed as colourable legislation.
The President said that he thought it fit and proper to return the Bill, in accordance with the Constitution, with the request for reconsideration in order to meet the scrutiny about its validity (if assailed in the Court of Law).
In his letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the president said several aspects required due consideration.