March 29, 2023
By Rehan Piracha
Senior lawyers supported the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 that the National Assembly passed on Wednesday. The proposed legislation curtails the discretionary powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notices.
The senior lawyers said the proposed legislation had been a long sought-demand of the lawyers’ community, bar associations, and councils in the country.
Pointing out Article 191 of the Constitution, senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader and senior lawyer Farooq Naek said the Supreme Court has the power to frame rules within the ambit imposed by the Constitution and any legislation.
“The Parliament is now framing legislation for regulating the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court,” he said, adding that the present Supreme Court rules were framed in 1980 and there has been no major change ever since. “The people are losing trust in the judiciary and there is an imminent danger the country is headed towards anarchy,” he added.
Veteran lawyer Hamid Khan said the Article 191 of the Constitution allowed for legislation for regulating the procedure of the Supreme Court.
“Uptil now, the Supreme Court was being run on rules but the constitution allows for an act of Parliament in this regard,” he had said while speaking as a guest on the Geo News programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath.
“Subject to the Constitution and law, the Supreme Court may make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the Court,” reads Article 191 of the Constitution.
The foremost change listed in the legislation is that of a committee of judges, headed by the Chief Justice, about exercising powers of Suo Motu jurisdiction which was a longstanding demand of the lawyers’ community that it should not be left to the sole discretion of the Chief Justice,” he added. The lawyers’ community wanted that there should be a consensus among judges while exercising suo motu proceedings, he said.
Ahmed Awais, a former advocate general of Punjab, was of the opinion that the proposed legislation was intended to clip the powers of the judiciary and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. He said the Supreme Court exercised the suo motu powers with a consensus already. “Whenever a judge of the Supreme Court invoked the Suo Motu jurisdiction, he used to refer the case to the Chief Justice for constitution of a bench,” he said in the Spotlight with Munizae Jahangir show.
He opposed the legislation saying that he believed that the Chief Justice should have sole discretion in order to facilitate any urgency of issues.
Amjad Shah, former vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, said the lawyers’ community had been demanding the structuring of powers of the apex court under Article 184 (3) as well as the right of appeal under it. Besides, the lawyers had demanded expediting the hearing of complaints against judges under Article 209, he told Voicepk.net. He said the Parliament had the power to enact law for the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court under the Constitution.
Abid Saqi, former vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, said the bar associations, councils, and political parties have long been calling for regulating mechanism of the Suo Motu jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. However, he said the timing of the legislation was questionable. “It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court would react to legislation once it is enacted,” he told Voicepk.net.
In his view, the legislation clipped the powers of the Supreme Court which could only be possible through a constitutional amendment.
Salahuddin Ahmed, former president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association, termed the proposed legisaltion as “excellent and much-needed”. He said the proposed changes were in line with what all the bar associations had been demanding.
“These are excellent and much-needed amendments and something all bars have been demanding for at least a decade. Everyone should stand behind them,” he said in his tweet.