Pakistan

Eight-member bench to hear SC bill pleas rejected by ruling alliance

  • Coalition partners vow to oppose attempts to limit the powers of parliament and to interfere with its constitutional powers
Published April 13, 2023

Coalition government and superior judiciary rift deepened Thursday after the ruling alliance rejected an eight-member bench assembled to hear petitions opposing the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill 2023, Aaj News reported.

In a statement, the coalition partners vowed to oppose attempts to limit the powers of parliament and to interfere with its constitutional powers.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday set various petitions against the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 for hearing.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial will preside over an eight-member bench to hear the case on Thursday, April 13. The bench also includes Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazahir Naqvi, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed.

The bill aimed at curtailing CJP’s powers, which was passed by a joint parliament session earlier this week, was challenged in the top court, with a prayer to declare the “impugned” bill as ultra vires and unconstitutional and of no legal effect.

Advocate Muhammad Shafay Munir on Tuesday filed a constitutional petition under Article 184(3) to “safeguard the Constitution and independence of (the) judiciary”, and cited the secretary Ministry of Law and Justice, the secretary Senate, and the secretary of National Assembly as respondents.

Meanwhile, another citizen Saeed Aftab Khokhar has submitted a petition to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in this regard.

The petition stated that during the proceedings of the Supreme Court’s suo motu hearing regarding the delay in Punjab polls, “the federal government along with (the) PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) started a vicious campaign in (the) general public and media to undermine the reputation and credibility of [the] judges” of the SC, “especially” the CJP.

It further stated that with its “agenda”, the incumbent government through the Ministry of Law proposed a bill for the curtailment of powers of the CJP in a “hurry without adopting the due course of law and in violation of Article 70 (1 and 4) of the Constitution”.

It stated that the bill was presented to the president for his assent but was sent for reconsideration by Alvi because it “was against the above-said Constitutional provisions”.

“Again, without taking into consideration and discussions on the objections by the president on (the) bill in question, the Parliament again in a hurry and without adopting the due course of law, beyond (the) powers of the Parliament, passed the bill on April 10 in a joint session”.

The petition contended that the Constitution had made it clear that the “independence of the judiciary” should be fully secured and the “Parliament has no powers to pass such an Act to curtail the powers of (the) Supreme Court or its chief justice or the judges”.

It maintained that the president had “highlighted the aspects” that required reconsideration, but the Parliament failed to reconsider the same and passed the bill beyond its powers.

The petition said that Article 191 of the Constitution stated that “subject to the Constitution and law, the Supreme Court may make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the court”. The powers to make SC rules were “expressly entrusted” to the court itself and not to the Parliament, it added.

It noted that according to the Fourth Schedule given under Article 70(4) of the Federal Legislative List’s item No 55, the petition maintained that the Parliament only possessed powers in relation to the enlargement of the jurisdiction of the apex court, but not to curtail its powers.

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