President Alvi questions timing, manner of bill aimed at clipping CJP’s suo motu power

Published March 30, 2023
President Dr Arif Alvi speaks in an interview on Wednesday. — Geo News screengrab
President Dr Arif Alvi speaks in an interview on Wednesday. — Geo News screengrab

President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday acknowledged that there was “some need to streamline” Supreme Court’s internal matters but questioned the timing as well as the manner of the government’s bid to curtail the chief justice’s power to take suo motu notice in an individual capacity among other things.

Earlier in the day, the National Assembly passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023’s passing after it was presented by Federal Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar.

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 a Supreme Court committee comprising the CJP and two most senior judges.

“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.

The president discussed the matter during an appearance on Geo News show Capital Talk, saying: “I think the timing could have been better. [Perhaps], it should have happened before as [passing this bill during a political] crisis raises a question mark on its timing.”

He reiterated that “the timing could have been better” but also said that according to analysis he had listened to, “there was some need to streamline how the Supreme Court conducts itself.”

Alvi said opinions to this effect arose from within the apex court. “This discussion was taking place within the Supreme Court for many days so this matter should be settled by taking it (apex court) into confidence,” the president added.

Reiterating that the Supreme Court should have been involved in the process, he said that when such changes are implemented “by force”, questions marks are put on them, pointing out that developed democracies try and reach a consensus on such matters.

The president said he hoped that “the judges will cooperate with one another as there does not seem to be consensus in their verdicts when their internal circumstances come to light, and then the nation quarrels over their decisions.”

Questioned on whether he would give his assent to the bill, Alvi said he had only seen the draft version of the bill and it would be “premature” to say what he would do.

“I want to play a positive role in a country in which there are many crises and don’t want to create more,” he said. “I am in a crisis-solving mode. [That said], crisis solving becomes very difficult when there are extreme positions so whatever you say somehow becomes controversial.”

The president decried that often his own opinion was chalked off as the PTI’s opinion even though “I fully try to be impartial and give my own stance.”

The president rued Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s response to his letter and said he was “saddened” to see himself being labelled partisan.

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