National Assembly of Pakistan Wednesday 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 debate was held in the National Assembly after the sub-committee passed it by including some amendments, which include:
- Right to appeal against the suo motu verdicts taken up to 30 days before the passing of the Lawyers’ Protection Act
- Any case that involves interpreting the Constitution will not have a bench with fewer than five judges
Following the nod from the lower house, the bill will now be presented in the Senate on Thursday (tomorrow).
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 judges committee. The committee will review the case and later it will form a five-member committee for any kind of constitutional interpretation.