ISLAMABAD, (MANEND NEWS): An eight-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) indefinitely adjourned proceedings against the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023 on Thursday after the government sought time to review the law.
Heading the bench, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial “welcomed” the federal government’s proposal to reassess the law as “a very good idea”.
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan appearing before the larger bench stated that there is an overlap in some of the provisions of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023 and SC (Rules and procedures) Bill 2023, adding that the government intended to harmonise them. He also referred to those provisions.
“There is some contradiction between the SC (Rules and procedures) Bill 2023 and the revisional jurisdiction extension law,” the AGP said.
“There should be harmony in the laws,” the CJ agreed, adding that the SC should be consulted before laws related to the working of its administration are made.
“Will the government take the matter back to the parliament,” Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi inquired.
AGP Awan proposed that the apex court may refer the issue to the parliament for review, which was dismissed by the CJ.
“We will not do that,” he said, adding that the bench would consult on the matter.
“Another option could be that we continue hearing the case and the parliament continues its review and then we can see who finishes first,” the CJ remarked smiling.
Earlier CJP Bandial had formed an eight-judge larger bench to hear petitions filed against the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, which curtailed the top judge’s powers to initiate suo motu proceedings and constitute benches on his own.
Besides the chief justice himself, the larger bench comprises Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed.
Interestingly, none of the judges, who had written dissenting notes in recent cases, including Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Athar Minallah, were included in the bench.
The legal fraternity has strongly criticised the move as the top court remains shrouded in controversy.
Adding fuel to the fire, the government had also sought the dissolution of the eight-member bench lamenting the “unprecedented” decision by the SC to take up the “premature petition” challenging the SC (Practices and Procedures) Bill 2023 that had not been ascented by the president.
Subsequently, in April, the court had gone on to act “pre-emptively” and stopped the enforcement of the bill.
Later, the apex court sought a record of the parliament’s proceedings with regard to the bill while rejecting requests to form a full court to hear pleas filed against the piece of legislation.
A special parliamentary committee however decided not to share the record of the National Assembly and one of its committees with the SC.
These developments alongside other controversial decisions have led to a face-off between the parliament and the judiciary.
Meanwhile, earlier this week the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president contended that the SC (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 stands in violation of Article 191 of the Constitution as it attempts to intrude on the exclusive powers granted to the apex court.
In a concise statement submitted to the SC, SCBA President Abid Zuberi argued that Article 191 must be read along with other sections of the Constitution that deal with the functioning of the judiciary.
SC Act seeks to uphold law: PML-Q
Conversely, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) has submitted in its written response today that the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023 seek “to uphold the ‘Rule of Law’, promote ‘Judicial Independence’ and ensure ‘Access to Justice and Fair Trial’ guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973,” adding that the petitions challenging it “…contrary to such lofty goals, if granted, the petition will actually undermine each of these venerated ideals”.
Calling for a dismissal of the petitions filed against the law, it argued that “under Section 2 of the 2023 Act, the lone responsibility nay burden of the Hon’ble CJ for the constitution of benches in all matters has been given relief so that it is shared equally with the two senior-most judges of the SC.”
“Pursuant to Article 191, the Parliament clearly has the right to legislate on matters pertaining to the practice and procedure of the SC,” it added, stressing that “the Parliament has the right to enact the subject legislation and has done so strictly in accordance with the law and the Constitution.”
“The 2023 Act is constitutional and will only serve to promote the ‘Independence of the Judiciary’, ‘the Rule of Law’, the ‘Right to Access of Justice and Fair Trial’ as guaranteed under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” the PML-Q stated.