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‘Intermeddling’: Supreme Court blocks bill aimed to clip CJP’s wings

  • April 14, 2023

Eight-judge bench issues notices to govt, others in SC (Practice Procedure) Bill case n Court declares bill, approved recently by Parliament, is against independence of judiciary n Whether or not bill is signed by the President, it will not be acted upon in any manner: Verdict.

ISLAMABAD    –    The Supreme Court of Pakistan Thursday is­sued notices to the re­spondents, Attorney General for Pakistan, two top bodies of law­yers, and the politi­cal parties in petitions against Supreme Court (Practice and Proce­dure) Bill, 2023. 

The eight-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Jus­tice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muham­mad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha A Malik, Jus­tice Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Sha­hid Waheed conducted hearing of the petitions.

The bench stated in its written order that prima facie the con­tentions raised dis­close that there is a substantial, immedi­ate and direct interfer­ence with the indepen­dence of the judiciary in the form of multiple intrusions, in the guise of regulating the prac­tice and procedure of this Court and confer­ring upon it a jurisdic­tion that appears not to be permissible under any constitutional pro­vision. 

It noted, “Such inter­meddling in the func­tioning of the Court, even on the most ten­tative assessment, will commence as soon as the Bill becomes the Act. Accordingly, in ourview an interim measure ought to be put in place, in the nature of an anticipatory injunction. The making of such an injunction, to prevent imminent apprehended danger that is irreparable, is an appropriate remedy, recognised in our jurisprudence and oth­er jurisdictions that follow the same legal principles and laws. 

The order added, “It is there­fore hereby directed and ordered as follows. The moment that the Bill receives the assent of the President or (as the case may be) it is deemed that such assent has been given, then from that very moment onwards and till fur­ther orders, the Act that comes into being shall not have, take or be given any effect nor be acted upon in any manner.” Chief Jus­tice Bandial said the matter per­tained to the judiciary’s indepen­dence was raised. The judges had the utmost respect for the Parlia­ment, however, the court wanted to examine the legislation.

He said the court would try to schedule the next hearing as soon as possible when fellow judges were available. During the course of proceedings, CJP Ban­dial said a written order would be issued shortly by the bench.

He maintained that it was an important matter wherein the in­dependence of the judiciary was involved which had already been declared a fundamental right of citizens. The expected judgement is being seen as another sign of escalating tension between the government and the judiciary. An eight-member bench led by Chief Justice Supreme Court Umar Ata Bandial delivered the verdict af­ter a brief hearing. The court de­clared the bill, approved by par­liament on April 3, was against the independence of the top judiciary. The judgement, for many, was rare as the bill is yet to be signed by the president. The court declared that whether or not the bill is signed by the president, it will not be imple­mented. The court adjourned the hearing until May 2.

It further said that notices be issued to the respondents in all three petitions. Notices also to the Attorney General for Paki­stan under O. 27A CPC. Notices also to the Supreme Court Bar Association through its Presi­dent and the Pakistan Bar Coun­cil through its Vice Chairman. Notices also be issued to the fol­lowing political parties who may, if they so desire, appear through duly instructed counsel: Paki­stan Muslim League (N) (PML (N)), Pakistan Peoples Party Par­liamentarians (PPPP), Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema e Islam (JUI), Jamaat e Is­lami (JI), Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Move­ment (MQM), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML (Q))

Later, the bench deferred the hearing till May for further pro­ceedings in this matter.

Senior journalists Chaudhry Ghulam Hussain and Sami Ullah Abraham, and the advocates Raja Amer Khan, Malik Amir Abdul­lah and Muhammad Shafay Mu­nir have filed petitions before the Supreme Court under Arti­cle 184(3) of the Constitution praying to set aside the Bill 2023. They cited federation through Secretary Law and Justice, Min­ister of Law, Principal Secretar­ies to the Prime Minister and the President as respondents.

At the end of the hearing, the Chief Justice said that he has great respect for the Parliament. He further said that important question involved regarding the Supreme Court power. He add­ed, “We want to examine wheth­er any transgression or viola­tion has been committed?”

Justice Bandial said that after hearing the arguments of the re­spondents, attorney general, Paki­stan Bar Council, Supreme Court Bar Association and the political parties’ counsel may appoint the amicus curae to assist the court. The Pakistan Bar Council has an­nounced a boycott of the proceed­ings and called for country wide strike on April 13 against the fix­ation of the pleas in haste. Advo­cate Imtiaz Siddiqui, representing Raja Amir Khan, at the end of his arguments requested for inter­im relief by way of either the sus­pension of the Bill, or a direction to the President not to assent to it and/or an order to the Law Minis­try not to notify the Act.

The Chief Justice remarked that the parliament has applied its mind and the bill is not mature yet, but you (petitioners) have come to the court when the mat­ter is pre-mature. He said that one organ of the state should not exceed to the boundary of other organ. The CJP noted that inde­pendence of the judiciary was an important matter but at the same time said that he had utmost re­spect for the parliament.

Imtiaz contended that the parliamentarians have violat­ed their oaths and have clogged the power of the chief justice. He questioned that can the par­liamentarians be allowed to reg­ulate the functions of the court, and said that the Bill is ultra vi­res. He said that in the current scenario, the case holds a lot of importance. He stated that ever since the National Assembly was restored in April last year by the Supreme Court, the political di­vide and crisis had increased. The federal government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) are not willing to hold polls in Punjab and KP.

Imtiaz recalled that the apex court had taken a suo motu no­tice last month and subsequent­ly instructed the government to hold elections. “On April 4, the court once again passed the same orders,” he said but at the same time highlighted that a deeper crisis had emerged after the apex court’s orders.

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