Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial remarked on Tuesday that the political parties wanted to “pick and choose” the bench and judges for “desired decisions”.
The Chief Justice passed the remarks as the Supreme Court resumed hearing on the petitions challenging the law clipping his office’s powers.
An 8-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, comprising Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Ayesha A Malik, and Justice Shahid Waheed, heard the plea against the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure Bill).
At the outset of the hearing, CJP Umar Ata Bandial remarked that the bench will hear everyone after Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan shared that some parties in the case would like to address the bench via video link.
The top court’s judge observed that important points, including the independence of judiciary, have been pointed out in the case and is “one of a kind”.
CJP Umar Ata Bandial remarked that the judiciary has “reservations” over the law.
“Democracy is an important part of the Constitution and so is an independent judiciary and the federation,” the chief justice said and wondered whether the component of the judiciary can be changed.
The chief justice stressed that independence of the judiciary is a “fundamental right”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawyer Khawaja Tariq Rahim said that the judicial reform bill has become part of the law.
At this the top court sought record of the debate held in the Parliament and standing committee on judicial reforms and also demand the parliamentary record of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure Bill) 2023.
CJP Umar Ata Bandial remarked that the case they are hearing is of a ‘different’ type. We have made a larger bench to hear the matter in a transparent way, the CJP added.
The Top Court also rejected the Attorney General request to withdraw its stay order till 13th April .
“There is no legal importance of a reference filed against any judge. Until the reference is fixed for hearing, it does not hold any importance,” Justice Bandial said, highlighting that a bench — headed by former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry — had addressed the issue in a verdict.
“Politics has tainted the judicial process,” the country’s top judge remarked. He maintained that there are also some limitations and restrictions of the federal list with respect to legislative powers.
“See section 55 of the Federal Legislative List,” the CJP said. He added that an independent judiciary is a fundamental component of the Constitution and it cannot be changed.
“It is alleged that the fundamental part of the Constitution was violated through legislation for the first time in the country’s history,” he remarked. He added that the chief justice has the authority to appoint seven senior judges and form a full court.
Only the president, CJP Bandial said, can file a reference as declared by the court in the Iftikhar Chaudhry case.
“A reference against a judge cannot prevent them from working until the opinion of the Supreme Judicial Council,” he said.
“Complaints keep coming against most of the Supreme Court judges including myself,” he added.
Criticising political parties for seeking verdicts based on their wishes, the chief justice said: “Political people want decisions of their choice, not justice.”
“The decision of the Supreme Court judges is the decision of the court. Every institution is bound to implement the Supreme Court’s orders,” the CJP said
“We will resume the case on Monday and then review all the issues,” CJP Bandial said.
Top Court also directed all parties in the case to submit written arguments in the case. The hearing has been adjourned till 8th May.
After National Assembly, Senate passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023 aimed to sack the top judge’s Suo Motu powers.
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). It also aims to have transparent proceedings in the apex court and includes the right to appeal.
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”.
Regarding the constitution of benches, the bill states that every cause, matter or appeal before the apex court would be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by a committee comprising the CJP and the two senior-most judges. It added that the decisions of the committee would be taken by a majority.
Regarding exercising the apex court’s original jurisdiction, the bill said that any matter invoking the use of Article 184(3) would first be placed before the above mentioned committee.
The bill says that if the committee is of the view that a question of public importance with reference to the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II of the Constitution is involved, it shall constitute a bench comprising not less than three judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan which may also include the members of the committee, for adjudication of the matter.
The bill additionally said that a party would have the right to appoint its counsel of choice for filing a review application under Article 188 of the Constitution.