Pakistan National Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023, curtailing the powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo moto notice in an individual capacity. The Express Tribune reported.
The bill, presented by Federal Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, was passed hours after the Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved the cabinet's proposed amendments.
The Lawyers Welfare and Protection Bill 2023 was passed by the National Assembly and the session was adjourned till 12 noon tomorrow.
A day earlier, the federal government not only ruled that the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) can no longer constitute benches and initiate suo moto proceedings alone but tabled the same bill curtailing unbridled powers of the top judge in the National Assembly for approval.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, while addressing the law minister, termed the initiative "too little and too late", and said that it should be called a "judges empowerment" bill.Tarar also acknowledged Bilawal's "too little, too late" remarks but said he believed "there is a right time for everything" and the government demonstrated restraint "until a voice came from within the courts," the Dawn reported.
The law minister thanked the members of the NA Standing Committee on Law and Justice for their input on the bill. "This bill was an old demand of the bar councils which said that indiscriminate use of 184(3) should be stopped," he added.
While referring to the order of the day, Pakistan's National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf stressed that though the bill related to the Chief Justice of Pakistan's powers had to be passed on Tuesday, the sense of the house suggested that the bill should be referred to the law and justice committee for further deliberation.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf presided over the session where the report of the standing committee on the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill was presented in the House by PML-N member of the National Assembly Bashir Mehmood Virk.
The bill suggested that a committee comprising three senior-most judges of the Supreme Court would decide on the suo moto notice and there would be a right to file an appeal within 30 days of the suo moto decision.
According to the bill, the appeal has to be fixed for hearing within 14 days of filing and after taking a suo moto notice. The hearing will be conducted by a three-member bench and the decision of the majority in this regard will be acceptable, as per the news report.
After the law was passed, no decision of the Supreme Court or high court, or any other law will be able to impact it, as per The Express Tribune report. According to the additional amendments, the right of appeal will be available in pending cases and the bench formed on constitutional and legal matters will consist of at least five judges.
Azam Nazeer Tarar said that the bill was tabled in the National Assembly on Tuesday in a bid to make the proceedings transparent, not having the right to appeal in Article 184(3) is against the basic principles of the Constitution and that there is no immediate hearing on cases of urgent nature, as per the news report.
He said that there should not be a "one-man show" in a suo moto case hearing, according to The Express Tribune report. He further said that National Assembly directed not to make any law that could be challenged. He said that the bill was handed over to the committee for consideration and the purpose of the bill is to have a transparent process in the Supreme Court.
Earlier this week, two judges of the Pakistani Supreme Court challenged the powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), saying the apex court "cannot be dependent on the solitary decision of one man, the Chief Justice", Geo News reported.
In a 27-page note for the apex court's March 1 verdict in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa suo moto, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail called it important "to revisit the power of 'one-man show' enjoyed by the office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan [Umar Ata Bandial]," as per the Geo News report.
While expressing their views against running a "one-man show", Justice Shah and Justice Mandokhail stressed that it results in a concentration of power in the hands of one individual, making the system more susceptible to the abuse of power. (ANI)