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Cabinet approves bill aimed at curbing CJP’s powers to take suo motu notice, constitute benches

Cabinet approves bill aimed at curbing CJP’s powers to take suo motu notice, constitute benches

The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a bill aimed at curtailing the chief justice of Pakistan’s (CJP) powers to take suo motu notices and constituting benches of the Supreme Court.

The cabinet summary, available with, for the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, said the exercise of original jurisdiction by the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution was a “subject of discussion by various forums”.

A day ago, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail of the Supreme Court (SC) had called for revisiting the power of the “one-man show” enjoyed by the chief justice, saying that the country’s top court could not “be dependent on the solitary decision of one man”.

The two had made the remarks in a detailed dissenting note — released on Monday hours after the SC took up the PTI’s plea challenging the postponement of elections in Punjab — for the top court’s March 1 verdict regarding holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the two provincial assemblies have been dissolved.

The two judges said the suo motu proceedings regarding the provincial elections stood dismissed by a majority of 4-3 and contended that the CJP did not have the power to restructure benches without the consent of the respective judges.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif hailed the dissenting note as a “ray of hope” during his National Assembly speech and called for relevant legislation in its wake.

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Regarding the constitution of benches, the bill passed by the cabinet states that every cause, matter or appeal before the apex court would be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by a committee comprising the CJP and the two senior-most judges. It added that the decisions of the committee would be taken by a majority.

Regarding exercising the apex court’s original jurisdiction, the bill said that any matter invoking the use of Article 184(3) would first be placed before the abovementioned committee.

“If the committee is of the view that a question of public importance with reference to enforcement of any of the fundamental rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II of the Constitution is involved, it shall constitute a bench comprising not less than three judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan which may also include the members of the committee, for adjudication of the matter,” the bill reads.

On appealing any verdict by an apex court bench which exercised Article 184(3)‘s jurisdiction, the bill said that the appeal will lie within 30 days of the bench’s order to a larger SC bench. It added that the appeal would be fixed for hearing within a period not exceeding 14 days.

The bill also proposed changes to other aspects of the law.

It said that a party would have the right to appoint its counsel of choice for filing a review application under Article 188 of the Constitution.

Furthermore, “an application pleading urgency or seeking interim relief, filed in a cause, appeal or matter, shall be fixed for hearing within 14 days from the date of its filing.”

The bill said that its provisions would have effect notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, rules or regulations for the time being in force or judgement of any court, including the SC and high courts.

PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry rejected the amendments, saying that only an “elected parliament” had the right to do so after a detailed debate.

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