ISLAMABAD: The upper house of the parliament, Thursday, passed the controversial Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 after Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani came under scathing criticism from the opposition for allowing the bill to be put up for passage instead of referring it to the relevant standing committee.
The National Assembly passed the same bill only a day earlier.
On the maiden day of the 327th Senate session, the hostility between the two sides of the aisle escalated soon after Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar sought leave from the chair to move the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023— that apparently aims to curtail the suo moto powers of the chief justice of Pakistan.
The law minister urged the chair to allow presentation of the bill for its passage—without referring it to the relevant standing committee.
NA passes bill to curtail CJP’s suo motu powers
This triggered strong backlash from the opposition senators who opposed the bill, demanding that the proposed law be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice.
However, the chair, without referring the bill to the relevant committee, allowed voting on the bill through voice vote.
As many as 60 votes came in favour of the bill compared to 19 against it, leading to the passage of the bill.
“Whereas, the exercise of original jurisdiction by the Supreme Court under clause (3) of Article 184 of the constitution has been a subject of discussion by various forums with respect to invoking of suo motu powers, constitution of benches and the absence of right of appeal. Whereas, in order to ensure right of free trail and due process of law as enshrined under Article 10A of the constitution.
Whereas, applications filed by early hearing of a cause, appeal of matter are not fixed for hearing and it is expedient to address this issue. And whereas it is the right of every citizen under article 10A of the constitution to appoint a counsel of his choice which ought to the review of cases filed under Article 188 of the constitution. The bill has been designed to achieve the aforesaid objective,” reads the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.
Speaking on the floor of the house, Barrister Ali Zafar from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) questioned: How could the bill be passed from parliament through ordinary legislation, when, he said, any amendment in Article 184(3) required constitutional amendment. He also questioned why the bill was not referred to the relevant standing committee.
On the other hand, the treasury side denied that the bill aimed to deprive the CJP of his powers, saying it aimed to “rationalise” the use of suo motu powers.
Apart from that, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar claimed in the Senate that Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves were recorded at $ 10 billion last Friday. He also claimed that efforts were underway to increase the forex reserves to $ 13 billion by this June.
The minister admitted that the country was faced with unbridled inflation but passed the buck on the previous government. He alleged that Pakistan’s ranking in economy dropped from 24 to 47 in the last five years.
Dar also claimed that “technical discussions” between Pakistan and IMF (International Monetary Fund) were complete.
Maritime Minister Faisal Sabzwari from Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) expressed reservations on the ongoing digital census. He said National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) be taken onboard over census.
The Senate also passed two other government bills; the Lawyers Welfare and Protection Bill 2023 and Inter Boards Coordination Commission Bill 2023.
The house was adjourned till Friday (Mar 31).
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023