On Tuesday, the Speaker’s office declined to release a transcript of the debate over a bill limiting the authority of Pakistan’s Supreme Court chief judge.
According to reports from earlier today (Tuesday), the eight-judge bench hearing the case had requested the record from the Supreme Court registrar. In addition, “the SC registrar had written to the Speaker’s office to furnish record of the last five assembly proceedings and that of the Senate’s standing committee on finance,” said the sources. The most recent five NA meeting dates were April 6, 10, 17, 26, and 27.
The Supreme Court has already requested the bill’s legislative history that would limit the authority of Pakistan’s chief judge.
The Supreme Court (Practise and Procedure) Bill 2023, which would limit the CJP’s power to take suo motu notice, was heard by a bench of eight justices, including Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Mazahir Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed.
The legislation intends to limit the Chief Justice’s ability to take suo motu notice as provided in clause (3) of Article 184 of the Constitution. In addition, the committee was mandated to review all cases that sought to invoke the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction under clause 3 of Article 184 and to form a bench of not fewer than three judges of the apex court, which could include members of the committee, to hear and rule on cases that raised “questions of public importance concerning enforcement of any of the fundamental rights.”
The measure had not yet become an act of Parliament when it was temporarily blocked from taking effect on April 14.
Barrister Salahuddin appeared on Tuesday for the PML-N, while Farooq H. Naek represented the PPP. Hassan Raza Pasha, a Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) member, was also present.
Chief Justice Bandial opened the proceedings by noting that the Supreme Court had already issued an interim order and stressing the need for an impartial judiciary under the Constitution. He explained that the court decided to hear the case because it threatened judicial impartiality.
He was confident that all parties involved would take the case seriously. “It is the first law of its kind in Pakistan,” he said of the proposed legislation.
According to the CJP, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, claims have been made that a basic component of the Constitution has been breached through this legislation.
After several references were filed against Justice Naqvi, the PBC lawyer pleaded with the CJP to form a larger bench to hear the case.
When asked why he wasn’t forming the larger bench, CJP Bandial responded that it was his prerogative. He also added that a judge’s reference alone would not be enough to remove him from the bench. There are occasional complaints against judges like himself, he noted, but it doesn’t mean “we cannot hear the cases.”
The court then ordered all parties and lawyer groups to respond by May 8 and requested the bill’s legislative history.