Supreme Court Bar Association to challenge NAB law amendment

Published November 6, 2021
A logo of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is seen on the main entrance of their office in Karachi. — Reuters/File
A logo of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is seen on the main entrance of their office in Karachi. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Newly elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Asso­ciation (SCBA) Mohammad Ahsan Bhoon on Friday questioned the recent amendment to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) as well as the procedure for appointment of superior court judges.

The first meeting of the newly elected 24th Exe­cu­tive Committee of the SCBA, presided over by Mr Bhoon, unanimously adop­ted a strongly worded resolution asking for abolishing Article 175(A) of the Constitution under which superior court judges are appointed through the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP).

The resolution suggested improving the procedure by inserting a fresh provision after a thorough consultation with the bar representatives aimed at appointing “proficient judges”. This will help in expelling all sorts of nepotism or discrimination and eradicating the monopoly of notables. Already the JCP is dubbed by the bar members a “consortium of judges”.

A convention of lawyers held at the SCBA complex on Sept 9 also demanded an amendment to Article 175(A) of the Constitution to reduce the monopoly of judges over the JCP and enhance the representation of other stakeholders, especially the bar on the basis of parity.

The convention had held that the unfettered and unstructured exercise of discretion by the JCP and the judiciary was a recipe for the abuse of power whether exercised in the appointment of judges or constitution of the benches, fixing of cases or initiation of suo motu proceedings and it must be duly regulated through rules and guidelines if public confidence in the apex court was to be maintained.

Friday’s SCBA meeting also categorically rejected a series of amendments to the NAO and described them as targeted victimisation through selective laws only to satisfy malicious designs of the ruling elite.

The SCBA resolved to challenge the recent amendment to the NAO in the Supreme Court. It offered to form a committee of the SCBA by inviting leaders of both the ruling and opposition parties to hammer out recommendations for bringing improvement in the accountability law. Ahsan Bhoon said the idea to form the committee was coined by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.

He told Dawn that he had asked the information minister, with whom he met along with a delegation of the SCBA on Friday, that instead of being a person-specific, the accountability law should be consensus-orientated without any dint of victimisation of the opponents.

But regretfully, Mr Bhoon added, the ruling party was at daggers drawn with the opposition when the latter was an important stakeholder in the running of state affairs.

The SCBA also resolved to cautiously amend Article 184(3) of the Constitution by giving the right of appeal to the aggrieved parties before a new bench and till a decision on such an appeal, the original judgement would remain suspended.

The exercise of Article 184(3) had always been in debate and the frequent use of suo motu powers during the period when Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was chief justice had also raised eyebrows among the legal fraternity which repeatedly highlighted the need for determining the limits or constraints for the exercise of suo motu jurisdiction in order to protect credibility of the judiciary.

In 2018, a member of the Pakistan Bar Council had written to the council a letter stating that the manner in which Article 184(3) of the Constitution had been used over the past one decade provided ample evidence that it was a vital source of empowerment of the court vis-à-vis other organs of the state.

The letter was of the view that the excessive use of Article 184(3), under the public interest litigation sometimes seals the fate of the aggrieved party, especially when altogether a different issue cropped up in collateral proceeding and totally a different aspect, was brought to the notice of the court.

The SCBA meeting also urged the apex court to amend the Supreme Court Rules, 1980, for providing the opportunity of changing counsel in review petitions.

The association unanimously resolved that all state institutions were well respected and dignified but they must work within their defined parameters/domains, as enshrined in the Constitution. “However, there is a dire need to dispel the overall growing impression of meddling by the ‘establishment’ in the state institutions,” it added. The SCBA also resolved to repel autocratic or oppressive designs and support all democratic elements.

The meeting stressed the need for maintaining harmonious relations between the bench and the bar for the betterment of the institution, rule of law and independence of judiciary. It called upon the Supreme Court to review and improve the case management system for speedy dispensation of justice.

The SCBA decided to hold a stakeholders’ conference inviting intellectual minds from all segments of society to discuss the current national and socio-political situation.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2021

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