Law minister moves bill to restructure CJP powers in SenatePakistan
Federal Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar on Thursday moved in the Senate the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, which aims to deprive the office of the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) of powers to take suo motu notice in an individual capacity.
The bill had been approved by the federal cabinet on March 28 and a day ago, the National Assembly passed it as well after a few amendments suggested by the Standing Committee on Law and Justice hours earlier.
The amendments which have been proposed in the Supreme Court’s rules, have sparked a fresh debate in legal and political circles and it is expected that the bill may be struck down by the apex court.
As the bill was presented in the Senate today, strong opposition from the PTI members was seen.
Moving the bill in the Senate today, Tarar said, “As time passes, to run institutions, you have to go through various periods [and] face various conducts.
“Law never stands still. You have to keep a margin for changes in the law so that the law can function according to the needs of the people in the present age,” he added.
The law minister said, “A new trend was seen in the Supreme Court in the past two decades — instead of running the court through collective thinking, the court became dependent on an individual.”
Bashing the excessive use of suo-motu powers, he said, “Executives were made to stand on the rostrum repeatedly. Such suo-motu notices were taken that matters of cleaning streets were also brought up.”
The minister lamented that the “state had incurred losses worth billions of dollars due to suo-motu notices”, mentioning that losses were faced in the Steel Mills matter and the Reko Diq agreement.
“The liver hospital also became victim to the chief justice [of Pakistan’s] personal ego,” he further said.
Regarding the constitution of benches, the bill moved in the Senate today 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 matters where the interpretation of the Constitution is required, the bill said the abovementioned committee would compose a bench comprising no less than five apex court judges for the task.
Regarding appeals for 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 Supreme Court bench. It added that the appeal would be fixed for hearing within a period not exceeding 14 days.
It added that this right of appeal would also extend retroactively to those aggrieved persons against whom an order was made under Article 184(3) prior to the commencement of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023, on the condition that the appeal was filed within 30 days of the act’s commencement.
The bill additionally 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 Supreme Court and high courts.