ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to take a recess for a week after Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan apprised it of the government’s intention to harmonise some “overlapping provisions” of the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Act 2023 and the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023.
The eight-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial was hearing a case regarding a law that curtailed the power of the top judge. On April 13, the same bench suspended the enforcement of the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Act 2023 after it was passed by parliament to regulate the suo motu powers of the CJP.
This was the third hearing in a row which was adjourned this week without any significant proceedings. Earlier, the Punjab polls case and audio leak commission case were adjourned by the court. According to the court, the case would be taken up next week, but a date in this regard was not given.
During the hearing on Thursday, CJP Bandial welcomed the initiative to review the legislation and said that he was glad to know that the government and parliament will be reviewing the two laws to remove the overlapping of some provisions.
He remarked that the government should have consulted the top court earlier since some provisions of the law pertained to the administration of the apex court. “Had parliament done this earlier, it would have facilitated the resolution of the issue and had avoided the present exercise,” the CJP observed.
The AGP explained that Section 4 of the law which provides a review of the court judgements overlapped with Section 6 of the practice and procedure law since both pertained to the right to appoint counsel of choice by the petitioners.
Similarly, Section 2 of the law on review overlapped with Section 5 of the practice and procedure law as sections dealt with the jurisdiction of the court by considering the review of a judgment to be an appeal.
As he welcomed the stance of the government, the CJP said wondered should the court adjourn the hearing, or another scenario would be that the court should continue with the hearing and let the parliament do its job. “Let’s see who is faster,” Justice Bandial quipped in a lighter vein.
However, he observed that if the court continued hearing the matter knowingly that parliament was reviewing the law then it would turn out to be an ‘academic exercise’.
At this, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar also conceded that hearing the matter would be a futile exercise. He also wondered whether the government was considering reviewing the constitution of a three-member committee of judges to determine what bench should hear cases filed under Article 184(3).
The AGP responded the court could refer the matter to parliament, but the CJP said the court would not like to do this since it could construe as an opinion of the court. Rather the court will welcome the government and the parliament to come up with a new law after reviewing both, he suggested.
When Advocate Imtiaz Rashid Siddiqui, representing petitioner Raja Amer Khan, reminded the court about its earlier directives seeking proceedings of the standing committee where the practice and procedure bill was discussed, the CJP observed, “We have read in newspapers that they have declined the request yet we have retrieved the information from their website.”
Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2023