The ruling coalition on Thursday issued a joint declaration and rejected the formation of an eight-judge larger “controversial” bench to hear petitions filed against the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, which curtailed the top judge’s powers to initiate suo motu proceedings.
In their joint statement, the ruling parties added that “such a move has never been seen before in the history of Pakistan and the court”.
The parties furthered that the move is “tantamount to destroying the credibility of the highest court of the country and making the constitutional process of justice meaningless”.
“This bench itself is a testament to the division of the Supreme Court, which once again supports the earlier stated position of the ruling parties,” furthered the statement.
The ruling coalition also said that the honourable judges of the apex court themselves have openly expressed their objections to the “one-man-show”, biased and dictatorial behaviour and the formation of special benches in their decisions.
The statement furthered that Pakistan is a federation and ignoring this fact and not adding any judge from the two smaller provinces, ie Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, to the bench is also “unfortunate”.
“The action of the SC and the statement of the Bar counsels of Pakistan on the formation of the controversial bench is clear proof that this action is not only against justice and fairness but also against the prevailing judicial procedures and established principles,” added the statement.
It was clarified in the joint statement that on October 12, 2019, the All Pakistan Lawyers Convention in Lahore passed a resolution and demanded the parliament to pass this law.
“Acting on the demand of lawyers across the country, the Parliament passed the relevant law,” it maintained.
The ruling parties added that “every attempt to take away the authority of the Parliament and interfere in its constitutional scope will be strongly resisted, there will be no compromise on the authority of the Parliament in the light of the Constitution of Pakistan”.
The joint statement by the coalition parties comes just a day after Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial formed an eight-judge larger bench to hear petitions filed against the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023.
Besides the chief justice himself, the larger bench comprises Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed.
Interestingly, none of the judges, who had written dissenting notes in recent cases, including Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Athar Minallah, were included in the bench.
The proposed bill introduced by the government was sent to the president for approval on April 11. According to the law, President Alvi can keep the bill pending for 10 days, after which it will automatically become law.
A joint sitting of parliament had passed the bill with amendments days after the president returned the bill amid protest by the PTI senators.
Through the bill, the government has curtailed the CJP’s powers of taking suo motu notice and constituting benches, proposing that a three-member committee comprising senior judges, including CJP, should decide such matters as it would bring more transparency in judicial affairs.
Among other things, the bill gives the right to appeal in the suo motu cases as well as grants a party the right to appoint its counsel of choice for filing a review application.
The bill says that the appeal will lie within 30 days of the bench’s order to a larger Supreme Court bench, adding that it would be fixed for hearing within a period not exceeding 14 days.