SC adjourns case of curtailing CJP's powers till Oct 9

SC adjourns case of curtailing CJP's powers till Oct 9


The apex court heard pleas challenging law limiting CJP’s powers

ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) - The Supreme Court (CJ) on Tuesday adjourned hearing a set of petitions to limit powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan as of October 9.    

During full court hearing, CJP Justice Qazi Faez Isa questioned how the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 could curtail the powers of the apex court. CJP Isa regretted how vesting of authority in an individual’s hands had destroyed the country.

At one point, Justice Akhtar feared the parliament’s involvement in bench-making would undermine separation of powers.

The 15-member full court bench of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan, headed by the CJP, resumed hearing of petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023, seeking to regulate the powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

The proceedings of the case were broadcast live by state-run PTV. 

The full court bench comprises CJP Isa, 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. 

At the outset of the hearing, he said as too many cases were still pending with the top court, the apex court would try to conclude proceedings on petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 today.

In his remarks, the chief justice said it would be their effort to complete hearing of the case today. He, however, said if the counsel desired, they might also submit written arguments.

He said many cases were already pending with the SC and that the court couldn't spend too much time on one case. He also ordered the petitioner’s counsel to complete his arguments in 10 minutes. 

CJP Isa said the powers of the chief justice were not being curtailed through this legislation rather they were being devolved among the judges. 

Advocate Ikram Chaudhry, the petitioner's lawyer, in his arguments said parliament bulldozed the independence of the judiciary and attempted to breach the jurisdiction through the Practice and Procedure Act. 

At one point, the CJP inquired, “Will you base your arguments on newspaper reports?” The lawyer said they didn't have record of parliament’s proceedings. 

“Did you request the speaker in writing to provide you with the record of the proceedings?” the CJP further inquired and told the counsel to avoid political discussion in the court after the latter read out the statement of the former prime minister before the bench.

The CJP said some people believed that SC and parliament had come face to face over this law. “I won't use the word war,” the CJP remarked.

He said the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act had now become a law, adding the debate should not be held on whether parliament could have enacted legislation or not. “The Act is against the Constitution or not, tell me,” CJP asked the lawyer.

The CJP told Advocate Chaudhry when you talk of freedom of judiciary, do you mean freedom of common man?

To the counsel’s argument that the apex court had powers to strike down any legislation, CJP Isa said the SC declared in the 21st Amendment that it could also review the constitutional amendment.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that the parliament should have adopted constitutional procedure before legislation, but it did not.

Justice Athar Minallah said access to justice is basis of the constitution. He questioned whether the parliament is not authorised to legislate for the betterment of masses.

At the last hearing, the court had directed the parties’ lawyers to submit their written arguments by September 25. However, the federal government submitted its written submission on September 28 as Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan was out of the country

In its written arguments to the apex court, the Centre stated that the judiciary’s freedom was ensured by the SC (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023. The response requested the court to reject the petitions against the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act.

Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) and others had submitted written arguments to the apex court in the said case. The hearing of the case will be broadcast live.

Khawaja Tariq Rahim, the counsel for petitioner Raja Aamer, filed the written answer on behalf of his client.

The lawyer requested the court to dismiss the said act, adding that parliament could not make changes in the judiciary’s powers.

The response detailed that the alleged interference by parliament into the powers of judiciary was against the constitutional division of powers. Parliament could not bring such changes through act in judicial power under Article 184/3, it added.

Khawaja Tariq Rahim said that the full court could itself amend the rules of 1980.

He said that lawyers and journalists could challenge a law on violation of fundamental rights, adding that high courts were not a forum to view the legislations about the top court.

The counsel for the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) also filed the answer, and requested the bench to terminate the cases against the said act.

The response detailed that the said act had made the judiciary more independent, adding that parliament had introduced the legislation as per the constitution.

It said that the law had shared the authority of chief justice of Pakistan with two senior judges.