The National Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution calling for the dissolution of the eight-judge larger bench of the Supreme Court which was constituted by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial to hear the petitions against the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Agha Rafiullah tabled the resolution during the session of the lower house of the Parliament, which was chaired by Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf. The resolution was approved by a majority vote.
According to the resolution, the house rejected the eight-member bench, which excluded two senior judges of the apex court.
The resolution argued that constitution-making is the sole responsibility of the Parliament and that the house views the decision of the apex court with “concern”.
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The resolution accused the top court of making “unfair decisions”, condemning the handling of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill.
It expressed concern over the non-inclusion of senior judges in the larger bench. In light of these grievances, the National Assembly has demanded the dissolution of the bench.
Following the vote, the meeting of the National Assembly was adjourned until April 26.
The development comes a day after the CJP formed an eight-judge larger 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 and constitute benches on his own.
Hearing the petitions earlier in the day, the top court issued notices to the federal government, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan, political parties, the Pakistan Bar Council and the Supreme Court Bar Council.
As the court adjourned the hearing, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said that a written order would be issued shortly by the eight-member bench. He maintained that the case was an important matter wherein the independence of the judiciary was involved which had already been declared a fundamental right of citizens.
Besides the CJP 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.
Three petitions have been filed in the top court against the bill so far. Two of them were filed by citizens Chaudhry Ghulam Hussain and Raja Aamir Khan through their lawyers Advocate Tariq Rahim and Azhar Siddique.
In the petitions, the federation, law ministry, principal secretary to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and principal secretary to President Dr Arif Alvi have been named as respondents.
The petitions argue that the proposed bill was based on “bad faith” and was “fraudulent” with the Constitution. They request the SC to nullify the proposed bill as “unconstitutional” and “illegal”.
The court has also been asked to suspend the proposed law until a decision on the petition was made and to prevent the president from signing the bill.