ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Wednesday, for a second time, refused to give his assent to a bill seeking to curtail the chief justice of Pakistan’s (CJP) powers and sent it back to parliament, maintaining that the matter was now subjudice, Dawn.com reported.

“The matter of competency of legislation and validity of the bill is subjudice now before the highest judicial forum of the country. In deference to the same, thereto no further action is desirable,” he said in his reply.

The legislation in question, titled the Supreme Court (Practice and Proce­dure) Bill 2023, is aimed at depriving the office of the CJP of powers to take suo motu notice in an individual capacity and giving the right to appeal in all suo motu cases with retrospective effect.

It was approved by the federal cabinet on March 28 and then passed by both houses of parliament — the National Assembly and Senate — only for the president to refuse to sign it into law with the observation that it travelled “beyond the competence of parliament”.

However, a joint session of parliament passed it again on April 10 with certain amendments amid a noisy protest by PTI lawmakers.

It was then again referred to the president for his assent and as per the Constitution, in case of the bill not being signed by him within 10 days, his assent would have been deemed granted.

But three days after the passing of the bill by the joint parliament session, an eight-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC), including CJP Umar Ata Bandial, issued an order that bars the government from implementing the bill after it becomes a law.

“The moment that the bill receives the assent of the president or it is deemed that such assent has been given, then from that very moment onwards and till further orders, the act that comes into being shall not have, take or be given any effect nor be acted upon in any manner,” read the SC’s interim order.

The apex court’s pre-emptive move has received criticism from the ruling coalition at the Centre.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2023

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