The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday declared invalid the Supreme Court (Review of Judgements and Orders) Act 2023, which broadens the scope of a review petition.
A three-member Supreme Court (SC) bench, comprised of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, reserved its verdict in the case on June 19 with the observation that the decision on the case would determine the fate of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) review of the April 4 verdict of setting May 14 as the date for holding Punjab Assembly elections.
The law was intended to broaden the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction in reviewing its own decisions and decrees. It broadened the court’s jurisdiction by granting a right of appeal under Article 184(3), which gives the Supreme Court the authority to issue an order if it considers a subject of public importance with regard to the enforcement of basic rights implicated.
The scope of a review would be identical to Article 185, which grants the Supreme Court appellate power.
The comprehensive decision stated that the law was “repugnant to and ultra vires the Constitution” and exceeded Parliament’s legislative authority. “It is accordingly struck down as null and void and of no legal effect,” he said.
The order stated that any attempt to interfere with the scope of the Supreme Court’s powers and jurisdiction, including but not limited to its review jurisdiction, would constitute an incorrect and erroneous reading and interpretation of the Constitution.
The decision also stated that there was no “express authorisation” in the Constitution that authorised Parliament to expand the Supreme Court’s review jurisdiction under Article 188. “Moreover, the 2023 Act does not ‘enlarge’ review jurisdiction; rather, it ‘creates’ a new appellate jurisdiction with no constitutional basis, sanction, or authorization,” the court stated.
It went on to say that any law interfering with the independence of the judiciary would be “unconstitutional, null, void, and of no legal effect” by definition and from the start.
It stated that a constitutional amendment would be required to transform the court’s review jurisdiction into an appellate jurisdiction. The order stated, “It is a well-established principle that ordinary law cannot amend, change, delete, or add to the Constitution.”
According to the judgment, the so-called “enlargement” of the court’s jurisdiction had “no constitutional sanction or basis” and was not grounded in any provision of the Constitution relating to the judiciary or the Supreme Court.
Review of judgments law
Parliament implemented the law on May 5, despite a quarrel with the court. Senator Irfanul Haque Siddiqui, a close confidant of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, introduced the measure through the House’s supplementary agenda. With a vote of 32-21, the House approved its immediate consideration.
The administration argued that the law was intended to help and improve the Supreme Court’s ability to review verdicts and orders. The opposition, on the other hand, interpreted it as an attempt to overturn Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification.
It should be noted that the Supreme Court’s decision came just one day after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stated Nawaz Sharif would return to Pakistan next month, though he did not specify when.
The Supreme Court (Review of Judgements and Orders) Act 2023 aims to make it easier and stronger for the Supreme Court to utilize its review powers.
The act sought to broaden the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, as expressly provided in Article 188 of the Constitution, which empowers the Supreme Court to review any judgment and to ensure the fundamental right to justice by providing for meaningful review of judgments and orders issued by the Supreme Court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction under Article 184(3).
The scope of the review, under Section 2 of the act, will be the same as an appeal under Article 185 of the Constitution. Section 3 states that a review petition will be heard by a bench bigger than the one that rendered the original decision or decree. Similarly, Section 4 allows the petitioner submitting the review to pick any Supreme Court advocate of their choice to represent them in the review case.
Section 5 states that an aggrieved person who has received an order under Article 184(3) of the Constitution previous to the commencement of this act would also have the right to file a review petition. However, the review petition under this clause must be filed within 60 days after the act’s enactment.
Section 6 states that the review petition must be filed within 60 days of the original order’s issuance and that the provisions of the act take precedence over any other laws, rules, or regulations in effect at the time, as well as any judgment of any court, including the Supreme Court and the high court.