ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the record of National Assembly proceedings from when a bill aimed at clipping the chief justice’s powers was deliberated upon and passed by the house.
The eight-member bench, which took up petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Bill, 2023 on Tuesday, directed the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) to furnish copies of the proceedings of the standing committee and the house ‘to understand the concerns and views of the lawmakers while passing the bill’.
During the hearing, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial put his weight behind his fellow judges as the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) demanded a full bench to hear the case.
The CJP said political entities don’t want justice but favours and therefore, they resort to picking and choosing judges.
CJP turns down requests for full court, judge’s exclusion from bench
“Political people want favourable decisions, not justice,” he said. He noted that a demand for constituting a full court had also been put forth during the hearing of the case concerning holding elections in the country.
CJP observed that it was an embarrassing situation for the court since the demand was then made that certain judges shouldn’t sit on the bench.
Each judge has his standing and their orders should be respected, obeyed and implemented by each institution, the CJP emphasised.
However, the CJP put the request for a full court aside, observing that it will be considered again during the next hearing.
Innocent until proven guilty
The bench also ignored a request made by PBC Executive Committee Chairman Hassan Raza Pasha to consider excluding at least one of the bench members — Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi — against whom misconduct complaints have been filed.
Nearly half a dozen complaints have been filed with the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) accusing Justice Naqvi of misconduct and accumulating assets beyond means.
Unmoved by the request, the CJP defended his fellow’s presence on the bench and stated that the power to include or exclude judges from the bench was vested with him under the rules.
CJP Bandial then referred to a 2010 case in which the apex court ruled that the mere filing of a reference by the president against a judge didn’t impair their working unless an adverse opinion or recommendation was issued by the SJC against the said judge.
“This has been a practice for the last many years,” CJP observed, adding there were many judges against whom complaints were filed before the SJC.
Describing the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Bill, 2023 as a ‘first of its kind’ law concerning the third pillar of the state, the chief justice wondered could independence of the judiciary being part of the salient features of the constitution ever be modified, changed or altered.
The CJP also mentioned Entry 55 from the Federal Legislative List, which outlined the scope of the jurisdiction and powers of the Supreme Court.
The list is a compilation of subjects over which the Centre has exclusive power to make laws, like maintaining the army, foreign policy, citizenship, etc.
The CJP observed that provision 55 of the list imposed certain limitations regarding legislation against the top court. AGP Mansoor Usman Awan also requested the court to reconsider its last order staying the bill’s implementation since it provided legal recourse of appeal and review, but the court didn’t entertain the AGP’s plea and maintained its April 13 decision to suspend the law. Further proceedings were postponed till May 8.
The bench directed the PBC, Supreme Court Bar Association, PML-N, PPP, PTI and other parties to furnish concise statements at the next hearing.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb has defended the legislation.
In a statement, she said the bill has amended Article 184(3) and introduced a transparent and fair system to regulate the chief justice’s powers. “It is the right of the judiciary to interpret the Constitution but not rewrite it or impose restrictions on the legislative power of the Parliament,” the minister said.
Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2023