Suo motu debate: fed cabinet for moderating CJP's powers in parliament
PTI rejects the amendments, says Fawad Ch
ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft bill, titled Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) bill 2023, to debate the legislation on judicial reforms in the parliament amid the Supreme Court's (SC) under-hearing suo motu notice on holding elections in Punjab Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The debate heated up when two members of the apex court’s five-member bench, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, expressed reservations on the CJP’s “one man power” jurisdiction to take suo motu notices.
The bill proposed the right to appeal against the suo motu notice within 30 days of the verdict on the sou motu, and to bind the top court to fix the plea for hearing within 14 days. As for taking the suo motu notice, the proposal pertained to empower three SC judges, including the CJP, to decide.
Sources said that the government, at a meeting of the federal cabinet, decided to use the assembly floor to legislate on the right to appeal against the suo motu notice which would ultimately limit the CJP’s jurisdiction to take suo motu notices. Other than that, the government also reviewed the proposals for the SC to authorise a full court to take suo motu notice, and the procedure to constitute a bench, sources added.
The government is expected to take up the proposal at a joint-parliamentary session that had earlier been adjourned by the National Assembly (NA) Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf until April 10.
The PTI rejected the proposed amendments. Taking to Twitter, PTI senior vice president Fawad Chaudhry wrote, "We condemn the government's continuous attacks on the Supreme Court and reject the proposed amendments. It is only the prerogative of the elected parliament to approve the amendments after a thorough debate. We vehemently condemn the attempt to sow divisions in the judiciary".
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) March 28, 2023
Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had demanded the House to make legislation to reduce powers being enjoyed by the CJP on the NA floor. Calling the judgments of the two judges a ray of hope, PM Shehbaz said, “History wouldn’t forgive us if we stay away from legislation”.
Justices Shah and Mandokhail had, in their dissenting notes, remarked that four SC judges, in a seven-member bench, had rejected the CJP’s suo motu notice. They further remarked that the jurisdiction of the “one man power show” must be reviewed, adding that the apex court could not be left to one man’s authority and it was time to end the CJP office’s jurisdiction to enjoy suo motu notice.
Read Also: Justices Minallah, Yahya question very spirit of suo motu
When caprice and convenience of the judges takes over, we enter the era of an “imperial Supreme Court”, the judgment read. A full court must be constituted to constitute policy regarding the jurisdiction on taking suo motu notice, added the judgment.
The matter reached the SC after the ECP had postponed the Punjab election, earlier scheduled to be held on April 30, until October 8. The PTI had contended that the ECP violated the apex court’s order directing the ECP to hold elections in Punjab and KP within ninety days of the dissolution of the assemblies. Punjab assembly was dissolved on Jan 14 and KP assembly stood dissolved on Jan 18.
At the outset of the hearing, the CJP questioned whether the ECP had the authority to extend the date of elections. “If the ECP has the authority [to extend the date], then the matter will be over,” he remarked.
Justice Mandokhail questioned if the assemblies could be dissolved on the whim of one man, adding that elections in the country would be held anyway but the question was which body had been authorised to extend them beyond 90 days.