ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be an unfinished agenda of the historic Charter of Democracy signed by ‘political frenemies’ PML-N and PPP, the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led government is mulling over the idea of establishing a constitutional court for ‘unbiased’ interpretation of the Constitution.
The idea from the 2006 London moot was pulled out of the closet and dusted off by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s newly inducted legal wizard, Irfan Qadir, while addressing a press conference here in Islamabad on Monday.
Pointing out what he called ‘a division’ between judges, the prime minister’s special assistant on legal reforms and accountability criticised the Supreme Court and its offices over what he called ‘political engineering’ and ‘choice’ benches for politicians to get desired results.
According to Mr Qadir, the solution for such a division and alleged biased judgement is the establishment of the constitutional court.
PM’s aide slams top court over alleged ‘political engineering’; says proposed forum would consist of non-controversial ex-judges, lawmakers
The establishment of a constitutional court to sit alongside the Supreme Court and to deal specifically with matters of constitutional interpretation was envisaged under the CoD in response to what was politically perceived to be a problem with the superior judiciary. With the regular SC left to deal with so-called regular criminal and civil appeals, the constitutional court was supposed to work on removing the distortions in the constitution and implementing its federal character.
“Don’t you think that the time has come to establish the constitutional court,” Mr Qadir remarked. He then explained the structure of the proposed constitutional court, saying that it would comprise the former and non-controversial chief justices and judges of the superior courts as well as parliamentarians having awareness in legal matters.
The PM’s aide then referred to several Supreme Court judgements for about a decade that he termed ‘judicialisation of politics’ and said specific benches were formed to control politics.
He alleged that the top court attempted to ‘subjugate’ the government and ‘derailed political course’. Citing the contempt proceedings against ex-premier Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, he said that the chief executive was removed under the contempt law.
Referring to a petition of PTI Chairman Imran Khan that led to disqualification of former premier Nawaz Sharif, he said the Panama Papers case was used for ‘political engineering’.
The PM’s aide said the Constitution had not fixed any term for the disqualification, yet the bench ‘rewrote the constitution’ in that it extended lifetime disqualification to the ex-premier. Regarding the recent legislation by the government to ‘streamline suo motu’ powers of chief justice, Mr Qadir claimed that like-minded judges who were elevated out of turn to the top court, had heard the petitions against the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill.
To corroborate his claim, he argued that the same judges again attempted to rewrite the Constitution by removing the then Punjab chief minister Hamza Shehbaz in a controversial manner. Similarly, he added, a bench attempted to intervene in executive affairs by ordering elections for Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies.
Mr Qadir said that after the lapse of May 14 deadline fixed for Punjab Assembly election on a ‘controversial’ order of the SC, the incumbent chief justice was waiting for a review petition, which was then filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
But the federal government did not file a review petition, because the SC direction for election date was a ‘minority’ decision.
According to him, the Supreme Court judges have already raised voice against this ‘one-man-show’. It is about time that the conflict was resolved and the future appointment in the apex court must be based on the principal of seniority while the fitness would be considered next, he asserted.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2023