The National Assembly on Friday notified the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 — law that aim to sack the Suo Motu powers of the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP).
National Assembly Secretariat notified that the bill of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) deemed to have been assented by the president (with effect from April 21, 2023) under Clause (2) of the Article 75 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
President Dr Arif Alvi, for a second time, refused to sign the bill and sent it back to parliament, maintaining that the matter was now sub judice before the apex court.
The bill was approved by the federal cabinet on March 28 and then passed by both houses of parliament — the National Assembly and the Senate — only for the president to refuse to sign it into law with the observation that it travelled “beyond the competence of parliament”.
However, a joint session of parliament passed it again on April 10 with certain amendments amid a noisy protest by PTI lawmakers. It was then again referred to the president for his assent; however, he once again returned the bill without signing it.
According to the Constitution, in case the president refuses to sign the bill a second time around after the joint parliament’s approval his assent would have been deemed granted within 10 days.
On 13th April, Supreme Court barred the government from enforcing the law, saying the move would “prevent the imminent apprehended danger that is irreparable” as soon as the bill becomes an act of parliament.
“The moment that the bill receives the assent of the president or 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 an interim order issued by an eight-member bench.
“The court has great respect for parliament but it also has to examine if any constitutional deviation, violation or transgression has taken place while enacting the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Bill, 2023,” Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, was heading the bench, had observed.
The bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed observed that there appeared to be no authorisation under the Constitution that allows parliament to confer appellate jurisdiction on the court, which is now being created.
The copy of the act shared by the National Assembly Secretariat mentioned that the act shall come into force at once.
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 act will be taken into effect on all verdict of the high courts and the Supreme Court (SC).