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Does the constitution allow the judiciary to review amendments?

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News Analysis |

The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar said that the parliament is supreme but the Constitution is above it. The Supreme Court (SC) was hearing a case about the media commission on Tuesday when the CJP responded to the allegations of the parliament that the judiciary is interfering with their powers.

“Yesterday it was again asked how the judiciary could interfere with the legislative process,” the chief justice said in a clear hint to the prime minister’s remarks that the judiciary cannot review the amendments made by the parliament. He accepted the parliamentary supremacy but stated that the Constitution is above the parliament and no amendment can be made in the violation of the Constitution.

The unanimous opinion of media, political and social groups is that constitution should only be amended to meet the growing needs of the time and not for personal gains.

Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed disapproval of senior judicial figures’ remarks for labelling the elected representatives as thieves and looters on Monday. Abbasi criticized the judiciary’s role in executive matters and censured judicial activism. He alleged that courts are severely affecting the functioning of his government. Other parliamentarians also expressed that the judiciary shouldn’t interfere with the matters of the executive and legislative branches.

The CJP responded by saying, “Headlines get made when we ask questions even though our remarks are to understand each other’s point of view. If we question whether or not a certain person is qualified then is that akin to insulting the parliament? Is asking a question also insulting a parliamentarian?” He also expressed the SC’s resolve to not be deterred by the allegations and utilize the powers bestowed upon them by the constitution.

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Legal experts believe that the trichotomy of powers is a cornerstone of every democracy. Article 239(5) states that ‘no amendment of the Constitution shall be called in question in any court on any ground whatsoever’, and Article 239 (6) states that there is no limitation on the power of the parliament to amend any provisions of the Constitution.

However, Article 8 of the Constitution declares that any law which is inconsistent with the fundamental human rights conferred by the constitution will be null and void. Article 184 (3) allows the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice against any violations of the human rights so the Constitution does allow space for the SC to review parliamentary amendments even though parliamentary supremacy is maintained.

The Constitution of Pakistan clearly defines the jurisdiction of every institute in the country. The popular opinion is that Nawaz Sharif and his party want to limit the SC’s powers to purge themselves from the numerous cases going on against them in courts.

This balance of power is very delicate and important for a flourishing democracy in the country. Constitutional experts believe that the provisions of the constitution should be followed by all pillars of the society. Any attempts by the judiciary or the parliament to curb the other’s powers will result in mayhem. CJP clarified in today’s hearing that the review is not meant to overrule parliament’s decisions but merely to know the others’ point of view.

Read more: Lawmakers using the constitution for legitimizing forgery !

The prime minister of Pakistan can call a referendum according to Article 48 (6) of the constitution and demand that review powers of the judiciary should be revoked or they can also be curbed by any constitutional amendment but the system created through such an act cannot be called a democracy. Governance analysts believe that accountability lies at the heart of democracy and the institute which ensure accountability are the courts.

 The anti-judiciary diatribe was started by the PML-N after the 28th July Panama Papers case verdict of the Supreme Court (SC) which disqualified Nawaz Sharif who was the prime minister of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif has since adopted an anti-judiciary rhetoric and criticized the SC decision sternly. His daughter, Maryam Nawaz has been side by side with his father in lambasting the SC. Sharif has held a number of public rallies since his disqualification in which he repeated his anti-judiciary remarks and flaunted his public support as the people’s verdict against SC.

Article 184 (3) allows the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice against any violations of the human rights so the Constitution does allow space for the SC to review parliamentary amendments even though parliamentary supremacy is maintained.

Many political rivals of PML-N have accused it of damaging the institutes to save their own leader Nawaz Sharif. PTI chief Imran Khan has claimed that PML-N’s attack against the judiciary is merely an attempt to hide their own corruption. While Opposition leader Khursheed Shah has agreed that parliamentary supremacy should be maintained, he also stated that it is wrong to amend the constitution to facilitate a few individuals.

Read more: Contempt for the constitution in Federal and Sindh

The Constitution of Pakistan clearly defines the jurisdiction of every institute in the country. The unanimous opinion of media, political and social groups is that constitution should only be amended to meet the growing needs of the time and not for personal gains. The popular opinion is that Nawaz Sharif and his party want to limit the SC’s powers to purge themselves from the numerous cases going on against them in courts.


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  1. The SC judgment disqualifying Nawaz Sharif was not unexpected. However, it’s a miscalculation by powers-that-be. Nawaz Sharif is likely to gain more sympathy & his party more votes in the coming elections. Political engineering so far hasn’t delivered. What’s next my lords?

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