ISLAMABAD: The government went into ‘defiance mode’ on Monday and recalled the services of the Supreme Court registrar, following a demand put forward by the second senior-most judge of the apex court.

In a tersely worded letter, written in response to a March 31 circular that asked to disregard the decision of a Justice Qazi Faez Isa-led bench, the senior puisne judge urged the Cabinet Division to recall Ishrat Ali to “prevent him from further damaging the reputation and integrity of the Supreme Court”.

The judge also sought disciplinary proceedings against Mr Ali for apparently violating the Constitution and the order of the Supreme Court of March 29.

The two-page letter, addressed to the registrar, was also copied to the cabinet secretary through the Attorney General for Pakistan and Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

Cabinet calls on president to sign new bill clipping CJP’s powers, into law

In a subsequent meeting of the federal cabinet on Monday night, held after the CJP-led Supreme Court bench reserved its judgement on a PTI petition against a delay in Punjab Assembly elections, PM Shehbaz Sharif and his advisers agreed on two main points — withdrawing charge from the incumbent Supreme Court registrar and urging President Dr Arif Alvi to give his nod to the newly-passed bill clipping the CJP’s powers of suo motu.

An official statement issued after the meeting said: “The federal cabinet Monday asked President Dr Arif Alvi to immediately sign the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill 2023 so that the country could be taken out of the constitutional and political crisis. The cabinet also decided to withdraw the services of Registrar Supreme Court and asked him to report to the Establishment Division.”

Later, the Establishment Division issued a notification saying that Mr Ali’s services had been withdrawn from the Supreme Court and he had been directed to report to the Establishment Division with immediate effect.

Justice Isa’s letter

In his letter, Justice Isa said he was astonished to receive the circular that purports to “negate, undo, disobey and violate” the March 29 order of a three-member Supreme Court bench headed by him.

He argued that the registrar does not have the power or authority to undo a judicial order and the CJP cannot issue administrative directions with regard thereto.

“As a senior officer, the registrar is expected to know what the constitution stipulates, act in accordance therewith and abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court under Article 189 of the Constitution.”

In your best interest and that of the Supreme Court, the letter said, the registrar should withdraw the circular immediately and inform all those who have been sent it since his conduct demonstrates that he did not have the requisite competence, ability and understanding to hold the office of registrar.

Moreover, a bureaucrat holding the office of the registrar violates Article 175(3) of the Constitution, which mandates the complete separation of the judiciary from the executive, the letter emphasized.

Parliamentary party meeting

Earlier, speaking in the National Assembly Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar had lashed out at the President Alvi for not signing the bill.

Meanwhile, addressing a meeting of the PML-N parliamentary party, the PM categorically said the ruling coalition had no confidence in three-member bench of the Supreme Court.

Drawing a stark comparison, the prime minister said Nawaz Sharif’s daughter was implicated in corruption cases, but contrary to that the PTI wanted to save Imran Khan’s wife by claiming that she was not a public officeholder.

The PM told PML-N parliamentarians that before coming to power, he could not have imagined the severity of the crisis – in form of a destroyed economy and strained foreign relations with brotherly countries – that faced Pakistan last year.

He said the government had fulfilled all the conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the previous regime had violated its commitments and accused the PTI regime of derailing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects, which he said impacted Pak-China relations.

Following the meeting, PM’s special assistant Atta Tarar said the government reserve its right appeal under the newly passed law in case the SC decision came against the government.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2023

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