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Full court to take up law limiting CJP’s powers shortly

Full court to take up law limiting CJP’s powers shortly

A full court comprising all 15 judges of the Supreme Court (SC) will shortly take up a set of petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 — a bill that required formation of benches on constitutional matters of public importance by a committee of three senior judges of the court.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, who was sworn in a day earlier, the bench consists of Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha A. Malik, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

The previous government of PDM had enacted the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, aimed at limiting the powers of the top judge. The legislation deprives the office of the CJP of powers to take suo motu notice in an individual capacity.

The law states that a three-member bench, comprising the CJP and the two senior-most judges of the apex court, will decide whether or not to take up a matter suo motu. Previously, this was solely the prerogative of the CJP. Additionally, it adds to the review jurisdiction of Supreme Court, giving the right to file an appeal within 30 days of the judgement in suo motu cases.

On April 13, an eight-judge SC bench headed by former CJP Umar Ata Bandial, had suspended the enforcement of the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Act, 2023.

When the law was suspended, Justice Bandial had observed that the court had great respect for the Parliament but it also had to examine if any constitutional deviation, violation or transgression had taken place while enacting the legislation.

The petitioners in the case had pleaded before the apex court that the concept, preparation, endorsement and passing of the law was an act tainted with mala fide. Therefore, the bill should be struck down after declaring it to be without lawful authority and of no legal effect, the petition contended.

Moreover, they said the federal government could not frame any law that seeks to interfere or regulate with the functioning of the apex court or the powers exercised by it or its judges including CJP, under the Constitution.

Separately, Justice Isa refused to receive a guard of honour upon arriving at the SC for his first day as the new chief justice. He was given a warm welcome by the SC staff and was presented a bouquet of flowers from the registrar.

“Thank you all so much. We need a lot of cooperation from you all,” he told the staff, adding that he would hold detailed meetings with them later as he meetings and the full court hearing scheduled for today.

CJP Isa observed that people did not approach the top court when they were “happy”, adding that the people wanted an end to the issues that plagued them.

He urged the court staff to treat visitors like “guests”, calling on them to keep the doors of the top court open and accessible for all.

“Help those coming [to the SC],” he said.

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