NA swiftly passes bill clipping wings of chief justice on suo motu front

NA swiftly passes bill clipping wings of chief justice on suo motu front


Tarar says the bill is in line with the constitution

ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – The National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, meant to curtail powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to unilaterally take suo motu notice. 

Addressing the NA session, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar said the legislation was in line with the constitution as it did not affect the powers of the CJP. “We can call it an intervention in the apex court’s affairs when a stranger is included in the authority,” he added.

He went on to say that the legislation would help end “one-man power show”, adding that parliament was supposed to legislate in the public interest. “The NA’s standing committee suggested some changes to the bill,” he said. 

The law minister presented the report entailing judicial reforms and Chairman of the Standing Committee Mahmood Basheer Virk presented the committee’s report. It was followed by tabling of the bill for approval by the NA after the debate.

The debate is as follows.

Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali

MMAP’s Mr Chitrali started off the debate by saying it was the right of parliament to legislate, adding that no institution could stop parliament from the legislation. However, he doubted the haste the bill was presented in, saying parliament must pay heed to the country’s other issues too as "we want to strengthen institutions". 

Raja Riaz 

Leader of the opposition in the House Raja Riaz said the government and the opposition had tabled the bill together, adding that the opposition had gone through the bill thoroughly. “The bill will help people get justice, mark an end to “one-man power show”, and strengthen the judiciary,” he added. He congratulated the NA, he said, for passing the bill.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Zardari said, "They don’t know what will happen next but the legislation we are working on today will become a part of the history in the future”.

Saleh Muhammad

PTI’s Saleh Muhammad said the legislation was tantamount to marring the judiciary’s independence adding that the party was in favour of reforming but not robbing the judiciary. “[The government] must have given some time to debate the bill”, he added.

He went on to say that the bill was aimed at sowing division within the judiciary adding that the judiciary was attacked in the guise of the bill. “[We] request the lawyers’ fraternity to stand beside the judiciary as the constitution granted independence to the judiciary but the bill was aimed at addressing vested interests.

Ahmad Hussain Dehar

Disgruntled PTI MNA Mr Dehar said he congratulated those who had tabled and passed the bill adding that he, as a lawyer wanted to say that it was the lawyers’ long-standing demand. “Justice served late is not justice and it should be seen [implementing]”, he added. If this law was passed, he said, I would salute.

Javeria Zafar

PTI disgruntled MNA Ms Zafar said they were to blame for bringing the bill late to the NA adding that it must have been tabled years ago. “This bill contains good articles on lawyers’ protection”, she added. Though the timing for passing the bill was not right, she said, she was still supporting it.

Sherry Rehman

Federal Minister for Climate Change Ms Rehman said the bill was aimed at trickling down one man’s [CJP’s] powers to other senior judges adding that everyone was aware of the dissenting voices being raised from inside the judiciary. “The parliament is using its right [to legislate]”, she added. Former PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was judicially murdered following a delay in his case, she said, and former president Ziaul Haq granted the judiciary’s rights to one man.

Khawaja Asif

Defence Minister Mr Asif said former PM Yusuf Raza Gillani was ousted questioning then why this bill could not be debated upon. “The law regulating the contempt of court must be reviewed”, he said. The [SC] bench [hearing the Panama case against former PM Nawaz Sharif], he said, had called Mr Nawaz a “Sicilian mafia”

He continued saying that an attempt like this had been made 15 years ago and he hosted the consultation on the “Judicial Reform Movement” at his Lahore residence. “The SC bench will not see the inclusion of anyone but the apex court’s judges”, he added.
He maintained that the parliament was using its constitutional right adding that the government was not violating the constitution. “Mr Bhutto had, 50 years ago, said people were power and I say today that people are power”, he added.

Noor Alam Khan

Public Accounts Committee Chairman Mr Khan said the House once again saw an air full of abuses which it had not seen for a year adding that the amendment was suitable as the parliament kept on witnessing ruckus in [PTI’s] four-year rule. “There must have been seven judges instead of three in favor as the verdict of three judges had created difficulties in the past”, he added.

He went on to say that those who looted Pakistan’s money got stay orders adding that whoever he, as the PAC chairman, tried to proceed against got the stay orders. “There were two Pakistans, one for the rich and the other for the poor”, he added.

Mufti Abdul Shakoor

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Mr Shakoor said it was their right to legislate and not that of the judiciary adding that it was rightful to legislate to limit those who crossed their limits. “Light can also be seen in the dark”, he added.

He continued saying that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) also did Miraj in the dark, adding that the country’s political climax would be witnessed in the holy month of Ramazan. “The people of Pakistan have given us the mandate,” he added.

Earlier, the bill had been tabled by Mr Tarar hours after the NA's Standing Committee on Law and Justice met here on Wednesday with Mehmood Bashir in chair and unanimously passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023. 

The meeting started after Federal Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar arrived to attend the meeting. The law minister apologised to the standing committee for arriving late. He said he had some more engagements due to which he arrived late.

The law minister, while briefing the committee, said the Pakistan Bar Council and the Supreme Court Bar Association on a number of occasions had drawn attention that under 184 (3), right to appeal had not been given. Mr Tarar also mentioned a judgement wherein it was admitted that there should be a right to appeal in the suo motu case ruling. He said many cases were required to be taken up immediately by courts but these were left pending up to six months. 

The law minister said when voices from within the apex court were raised, the government decided to make necessary legislation. He said the government did not want to make any law which could be challenged later. Mr Tarar said it was long-standing demand of the stakeholders and bar councils due to which the legislation was being made now.

The minister said the bar councils had demanded that misuse of 184/3 should be checked. He said no right to appeal against court ruling in a suo motu case was against basic rights. He added that hiring an advocate of one’s choice was also the right of every one.

Mr Tarar said the objective behind presenting the bill about judicial reforms in the National Assembly was to regulate working of the apex court. He said the bill was aimed at making the apex court proceedings transparent.

The standing committee discussed the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill 2023. Under the bill, the chief justice of Pakistan’s discretionary power to take suo motu notice had been proposed to be abolished. It had been suggested that a judges' committee would be entrusted power of taking a suo motu notice.

The appeal against ruling in a suo motu case would be filed within 30 days and the case would be fixed for hearing within 14 days.