NA adopts motion seeking body to prepare, file reference against SC judges in Supreme Judicial Council

Published May 15, 2023
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif speaks during the National Assembly session convened on Monday. — Photo courtesy NA Twitter
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif speaks during the National Assembly session convened on Monday. — Photo courtesy NA Twitter

The National Assembly (NA) adopted on Monday a motion calling for the constitution of a five-member committee that would prepare and forward references against Supreme Court (SC) judges to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) — a body empowered to hear cases of misconduct against judges — on “the ground of misconduct”.

The motion, moved by PPP lawmaker Shazia Sobia, has been adopted by the House as apex court judges — notably Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial — face criticism by members of the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led ruling coalition over some of their recent judgements amid a worsening political turmoil.

The judgements at the centre of this conflict primarily pertain to the timing of elections in Punjab, legislation on clipping the chief justice’s powers and, most recently, the “relief” granted to PTI chief Imran Khan in multiple cases after he was whisked away by the paramilitary Rangers from the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) premises in a graft case.

The motion seeking a committee for filing references against SC judges seems to be the latest move by the ruling coalition to assert its authority in the ongoing conflict while the PDM stages a sit-in outside the SC in Islamabad.

It was moved under Rule 244 (b) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, which states: “The assembly may, by motion appoint a special committee which, shall have composition and functions as may be specified in the motion.”

The draft of the motion, seen by Dawn.com, demanded that a special committee shall be formed “to prepare and forward a reference or references under Article 209 of the Constitution (which elaborates on the constitution and functions of the SJC) to the Supreme Judicial Council on the ground of misconduct as discussed in the National Assembly and on such other grounds which are available against any judge or judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, as the committee decides”.

The references shall be filed at the earliest, it added.

The motion nominated PML-N’s Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha, PPP’s Khursheed Ahmed Junejo, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s Salahuddin Ayubi, Balochistan’s National Party’s Shahnaz Baloch and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Salahuddin as members of the committee.

The “speaker may be authorised to make such changes in the composition of the committee as he may deem fit”, it said.

Earlier, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also called for the formation of a committee comprising parliamentarians, tasked with analysing the conduct of the chief justice, filing a reference under Article 209 of the Constitution for “misconduct”, and presenting evidence “to set an example” that the integrity of Pakistan remains inviolable.

Addressing the NA, Asif emphasised the need for the Parliament to assert its authority and uphold its supremacy.

He also criticised the CJP’s comments where he allegedly welcomed Imran during his appearance before the apex court following his arrest.

Resolution condemns vandalism during protests

The NA also passed today a resolution condemning the “recent incidents of vandalism and the burning of infrastructure” in Pakistan, following the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

The resolution, seen by Dawn.com, was presented by dissident PTI lawmaker Wajiha Qamar.

It stated that the House expressed “grave concern and outrage over the negative impact of vandalism and burning of infrastructure on the socioeconomic development, public welfare and stability of the country”.

The House also regretted the loss of lives, injuries and damage to the state and private property resulting from these acts, it added.

It further stated that the House reaffirmed “the rule of law and protection of human rights, and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly and expression, as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan”.

“This House condemns unequivocally the acts of vandalism, destruction and burning of infrastructure that have taken place across Pakistan following the arrest o the NAB(National Accountability Bureau)-accused Imran Khan Niazi,” the resolution read.

It added, “This House also condemns strongly the violent attacks on the GHQ (General Headquarters), memorials of martyrs, historic buildings, mosques and schools which were set on fire and damaged.

“Recognising and appreciating the vital role played by the armed forces and security agencies, including the Rangers and police, in upholding the sovereignty, safeguarding public order, and ensuring the safety and security of the people, this House extends its unwavering solidarity and support [to them].”

Moreover, the resolution said, “Recognising the importance of bringing criminals to justice and upholding the rule of law, this House calls for the swift and impartial investigation of these incidents while urging the government to take severe action against the perpetrators, regardless of their affiliations or political backgrounds, with due process.”

With regards to the judiciary, it said: “This House recognises the constitutional imperative of an independent and impartial judiciary in upholding the rule of law, ensuring justice, and safeguarding the democratic principles of a nation. It is essential that the judiciary functions without bias or favouritism, maintaining the trust and confidence of the people.

“This House expresses concern over overt bias in decisions by the Supreme Court that undermines its credibility and impartiality, particularly if it favours one political party over others. By turning it in the mind of the public into just another political institution, the court undermines its legitimacy and the credibility of its judgements.

“The House also strongly condemns actions that compromise the fair administration of justice and calls for transparency, accountability, and adherence to the principles of justice, impartiality and unfairness by the Supreme Court to restore public trust in the judicial system.”

PTI not a political party if it refuses to condemn May 9 violence: Bilawal

In a joint session of the Parliament later in the day, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also took exception to the alleged gesture, saying: “Instead of saying ‘nice to see you’, the court should have condemned militant organisations. Should have condemned terrorism. And should have given the opportunity to Khan sahib to decide whether you are a terrorist organisation or a political party.”

Bilawal made these remarks in the context of vandalism and violence witnessed in protests that followed Imran’s arrest at the IHC — for which the government has held Imran responsible while the latter has distanced himself from the riots and called for an independent probe into it under the CJP’s supervision.

The foreign minister said if the PTI refused to publicly dissociate itself from the events that followed Imran’s arrest, did not condemn them and did not seek an apology for them, it meant that it no longer remained a political party.

“This means that it has become a terrorist organisation and if it is so, then this House and that institution (court) will have to treat it as a militant organisation.”

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