The ruling coalition rejected the eight-member Supreme Court bench formed to examine petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 on Thursday.
A Supreme Court bench of eight judges, led by the Chief Justice, is hearing three petitions contesting the measure limiting the CJP’s powers.
The bench is headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and includes Justices Ijazul Ahsan, Muneeb Akhtar, Shahid Waheed, Muzahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Ayesha Malik, and Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi.
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, speaking at a press conference alongside federal ministers Qamar Zaman Kaira and Amin-ul-Haq, as well as other members of the ruling alliance, requested the dismissal of the eight-member bench hearing petitions over the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023.
“The decisions of the CJ were leading to an outright clash,” he added, adding that only parliament had the authority to establish laws and strengthen institutions. Tarar emphasised that all Pakistani bar councils have criticised the move and have declared a complete boycott of the courts.
“Pakistan Bar Council, Sindh Bar Council, Balochistan Bar Council, Punjab Bar Council, Islamabad Capital Territory Bar Council, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council boycotted the eight-member bench constituted to hear the pleas against the pre-mature bill,” he added.
He went on to state that the apex bench lacked two senior-most judges as well as those ranked fifth, seventh, and eighth on the seniority list.
“The SC bill is being heard by a selective bench,” Azam Tarar explained, adding that the “controversial” court was formed on a “pick and choose” basis.
“The bench is constituted for hearing the SC bill in haste,” Tarar said, adding that the CJP set the hearing despite the fact that the measure is “premature” because it has not yet become an Act because the president returned it without signing it.
PPP lawmaker Qamar Zaman Kaira, JUIP’s Kamran Murtaza, ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain, MQM’s Syed Aminul Haque, and BNP Senator Tahir Bizenjo, among others, voiced solidarity with the law minister and urged the CJ to review the bench structure.
The ruling coalition opposed the move and labeled it ‘controversial’ in a statement issued Thursday following a consultative meeting.
The move, according to the statement, has never been witnessed before in the history of Pakistan and the court. The government parties allege that it is an attempt to undermine the Supreme Court’s credibility and render the constitutional process of justice “meaningless.”
According to the statement, respectable Supreme Court justices have also expressed their opposition to such activities.
The ruling parties were disappointed that no judges from smaller provinces such as Balochistan or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were appointed to the bench. They described the measure as an ‘assault’ on the authority of parliament, which they will oppose.
The Joint Sitting of Parliament passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 on Monday, despite strong protests from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) legislators. The bill intends to limit the chief justice of Pakistan’s (CJP) suo motu powers of office.
Azam Nazeer Tarar, Minister for Law and Justice, introduced the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, which was approved by Parliament.
It is worth noting that, in accordance with Article 75 of the Constitution, President Dr. Arif Alvi returned the ‘judicial reforms’ bill to Parliament for review.
The legislative proposal was approved by the joint sitting of Parliament. Former Minister for Law and Justice and Senator Farooq H. Naek, as well as JUI-F Senator Kamran Murtaza, remarked on the various aspects of the bill and agreed that it was the proper moment for legislation to ensure judicial changes.