Pakistan nat'l assembly passes bill to curtail chief justice’s suo motu powers
The National Assembly today passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023, which aims to deprive the office of the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) of powers to take suo motu notice in an individual capacity.
The bill, presented by Federal Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, was passed hours after the Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved the cabinet's proposed amendments.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, while addressing the law minister, termed the initiative "too little and too late", and said that it should be called a "judges empowerment" bill.
When Tarar spoke, he said, "It is being said that a constitutional amendment should be made. I want them to know there is no need for a constitutional amendment.
"They should go and read Article 191 of the Constitution, which empowers the Assembly to legislate. The Supreme Court also made their rules according to the Constitution and law since 1980 and it is written on the preamble as well."
He said Pakistan has six bar councils and "all of them saluted the House and the law for tabling the bill".
North Waziristan MNA Mohsin Dawar introduced amendments which were accepted.
Tarar also acknowledged Bilawal's "too little, too late" remarks but said he believed "there is a right time for everything" and the government demonstrated restraint "until a voice came from within the courts".
The law minister thanked the members of the NA Standing Committee on Law and Justice for their input on the bill. "This bill was an old demand of the bar councils which said that indiscriminate use of 184(3) should be stopped," he added.
Tarar said the bill aimed to make apex court proceedings transparent and it also included the right to appeal.
He said that all institutions had to follow laws passed by Parliament. The minister quoted Article 191 of the Constitution, which says that "subject to the Constitution and law, the Supreme Court may make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the Court".
Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz praised the government's efforts in introducing the bill and said it would ensure the freedom of the judiciary and rule of law.
When he spoke, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif insisted that Parliament was not usurping the powers of the Supreme Court but rather legislating as per its constitutional right.
Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Mufti Abdul Shakoor said Parliament was a sovereign institution and its members had the right to legislate, being representatives of the people.
Shortly after the bill was passed, the session was adjourned.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) appreciated the federal government for passing the bill. In a statement, Vice Chairman Haroonur Rashid and Executive Committee Chairman Hassan Raza Pasha said that the council had time and again demanded that the criteria for suo motu jurisdiction should be decided.
They also commended that the right of appeal in cases decided under Article 184(3) would now be available, adding that it would be beneficial for litigants and the public. They also appreciated the mechanism for fixing urgent cases within 14 days of them being filed.
Copyright: DAWN/ Asia News Network (ANN)