ISLAMABAD: Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah again requested Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Tuesday to consider constituting a full court to hear the NAB amendment case, or wait till a decision on the validity of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023.

However, the CJP postponed further hearing of the case to Wednesday, but recalled how Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan had earlier conceded before the court that there were defects in the act and sought time to review the law.

On Aug 11, the apex court had declared as illegal the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023, under which the government had created a new right of appeal when the Constitution did not authorise such an enlargement of the review jurisdiction, the CJP reminded.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, a three-judge Supreme Court had taken up challenges to the August 2022 amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) by former prime minister Imran Khan.

Ex-PM Imran Khan had challenged amendments carried out in Aug 2022

During the hearing, the CJP asked senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed to confine his challenges to the 2022 amendments to the NAB law when the latter told the court that he had also challenged the 2023 act, as well as the subsequent ordinance.

“We don’t have time if you add more to the petition, and we don’t have time to deal with the 2023 amendments,” the CJP observed.

Justice Bandial recalled how on June 8, the AGP had informed the members of the bench sitting in the anteroom that though the drafting of the law had commenced, legislative work could not begin due to the budget session, but it would be done during July.

“We followed the schedule of parliament through its website, but realised that the matter had not even been taken up for discussion in the assembly,” the CJP regretted, saying that was the intention of the previous government, though the court had no idea about the intention of the present caretaker government.

Against this background, the court had suspended the operation of the practice and procedure law, the CJP observed, asking whether the court should postpone all its work until parliament decided the fate of the law.

But senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing the government, made it clear that any concession given to the AGP by not striking down the law should not pose any handicap to him. “But the fact remains the same that the law (practice and procedure) remains on the statute book,” he said.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, a member of the SC bench, observed that even the government wanted to modify it and, therefore, “we should proceed with the present matter”.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, however, made it clear that he was not concerned with the pending practice and procedure law before the eight-member bench, but the real question was that in the presence of the stay, should the present bench continue to hear the NAB case or a full court should proceed with the matter.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2023

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