ISLAMABAD: In a bid to pave the way for ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif to file an appeal against his disqualification for life under a suo motu case, the National Assembly on Wednesday adopted an all-important bill, aimed at curtailing the discretionary powers of Chief Justice of Pakistan including the powers to take suo motu notices.
The bill titled, “Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023” which was moved by Law and Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, was approved by the house with a majority along with two “key” amendments presented by Mohsin Dawar, an independent MNA from North Waziristan.
About appeals for any verdict by an apex court bench which exercised Article 184(3) jurisdiction, the bill said that the appeal will lie within 30 days of the bench’s order to a larger SC bench. It added that the appeal would be fixed for hearing within a period not exceeding 14 days.
Govt tables bill in NA to dilute powers of CJP
It added that this right of appeal would also extend retroactively to those aggrieved persons against whom an order was made under Article 184(3) prior to the commencement of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023, on the condition that the appeal was filed within 30 days of the act’s commencement.
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.
Besides, “an application pleading urgency or seeking interim relief, filed in a cause, appeal or matter, shall be fixed for hearing within 14 days from the date of its filing.”
If the bill becomes law after getting the assent of the president of Pakistan, not only Nawaz Sharif but Jehangir Tareen, who is also disqualified for life, and Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Yousuf Raza Gilani, and others would also be benefited.
The bill said that its provisions would have effect notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, rules or regulations for the time being in force or judgement of any court, including the Supreme Court and high courts.
About the constitution of benches, the bill passed by the National Assembly after amendments, 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 chief justice of Pakistan and the two senior-most judges. It added that the decisions of the committee would be taken by a majority.
About 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 abovementioned committee.
“If the committee is of the view that a question of public importance with reference to 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 reads.
On matters where the interpretation of the constitution is required, the bill said the abovementioned committee would compose a bench comprising no less than five apex court judges for the task.
MNA Mohsin Dawar, while presenting his amendments, said that Karachi’s Nasla Tower was also demolished due to a suo motu notice, suggesting that the victims of Article 184(3) of the constitution in the past should be given the right to appeal within 30 days, which the law minister supported.
The house also passed “The Lawyers Welfare and Protection Bill, 2023” aimed at protecting advocates from assaults, criminal force, intimidation and threats, while discharging their professional duties. Both bills were moved by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar.
Besides, the House passed another three bills which include “the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (Amendment) Bill, 2022”, “the Imports and Exports (Control) (Amendment) Bill, 2022” and “the Emigration (Amendment) Bill, 2022”. While speaking in the house before the passage of the bill, Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif also suggested revisiting Article 209 of the constitution which pertains to the Supreme Judicial Council.
He questioned the judiciary’s decision to disqualify the country’s two prime ministers, adding “we are taught about democracy and the constitution, so the structure of this [Supreme Court] institution should also be democratized.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023